HP and Apple have announced a strategic alliance in which HP will release an own-branded digital music player based on Apple's market-leading iPod and will ship iTunes pre-installed on its PCs.

Announced at the US Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Carly Fiorina, HP's chairman and CEO, showed the device for the first time during a speech at the show. In light blue and silver, it looks very much like Apple's own iPod, with similar features and navigation controls.

"HP's goal is to bring the most compelling entertainment content and experiences to our customers," said Fiorina. "We explored a range of alternatives to deliver a great digital music experience and concluded Apple's iPod music player and iTunes music service were the best by far. By partnering with Apple, we have the opportunity to add value by integrating the world's best digital music offering into HP's larger digital entertainment system strategy."

The device is set to go on sale in June, Fiorina said. Further details, such as pricing and financial terms of the deal with Apple, were not released. HP said the device would be priced competitively with other music players on the market.

HP will also preinstall Apple's iTunes jukebox software in its HP Pavilion, Media Center and Compaq Presario desktop and notebook consumer PCs, and add a desktop icon pointing customers to the iTunes online music store, HP said.

"HP is going to bring this award-winning product and service to market on a massive scale," Fiorina said.

HP had indicated plans to release a digital music player but the partnership with Apple took some by surprise.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said: "As the industry balkanizes by offering digital music wrapped in a multitude of incompatible proprietary technologies, consumers will be reassured in getting the same unparalleled digital music solutions from both HP and Apple, two leaders in the digital music era." Jobs said.

Over 2 million iPods have been sold since it was introduced in 2001, including over 100,000 units sold in the UK between October and December 2003. The deal makes HP the first company to resell a version of Apple's product.

HP said that according to its internal research, more than 54 per cent of its current consumer customers download music to their PCs.