UK iTunes rival to provoke a “price war”?

By Mark O’Neill

As Yoda would probably say in a situation like this “begun the price wars have”.   Play.com has launched a music download service in the UK which will undercut iTunes prices.

Not only will the music be cheaper but it will also be DRM free – meaning you would be able to play the music anywhere – on a MP3 player, on the computer or, ironically, on an iPod.

Songs from Play.com will be 65 pence each ($1.27) compared to iTunes which charges 79 pence per track ($1.55).   So far, they have signed a contract with EMI (which guarantees they can offer around one million songs to their customers) but as yet, none of the other major music labels have signed up.

But Play.com’s slight price advantage won’t last for long.   iTunes apparently plans to reduce their prices soon to nearly the same as Play.com.   Will the latter proceed to lower their prices again?   Will iTunes then follow suit?   It’ll be interesting to find out.

All in all, this is all excellent news as every big company needs at least one serious rival to keep them on their toes.  Industry analysts are predicting the beginning of a price war in the music download business which can only be a good thing for the customer.

How long Play.com lasts however is another matter.    Do they have what it takes to persuade people that iTunes is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to music buying?    Or are people too intensely committed to their iPod’s?   I know I am.