"Many interesting things are going to happen in the whole digital media area," Apple’s UK general manager, Mark Rogers, told Macworld at MacExpo 2003 last week.

"Microsoft is trying to get Windows Media established as the format for digital media, but no-one in Hollywood is interested in that becoming any kind of standard; at the end of the day, it's the content creators who will drive the digital distribution format," he said.

Microsoft has managed to get Windows Media 9 – its multimedia format that features digital rights management – established as a format that's widely used by European digital music distribution services, particularly those driven by OD2 distribution. The company released Windows Media 9 for OS X this month.

However, Microsoft's attempt to establish market dominance in the nascent digital distribution industry through the exploitation of its wide desktop OS distribution has seen the company endure an antitrust investigation by the EU. It's thought that the EU may insist Microsoft remove Windows Media from its desktop OS distribution package.

Agreeing that the new industry – which has now almost become synonymous with the iTunes Music Store and iPod – is entering "interesting times", Rogers said: "All this stuff will work itself out over the next 12-18 months, or whatever the time-frame will be, and our job is to work things out to ensure we are there at the end."

Retail deals

Apple UK recently reached a ground-breaking deal that ensures its market-leading iPod MP3 player is available at retail in Virgin's chain of 165 music shops.

Virgin recently launched its own music download service that also uses Windows Media 9 and does not support Macs. "They are looking at that," Rogers said.

Rogers also confirmed iPods have been made available through Carphone Warehouse retail outlets, adding they "are also available in the top 30 Dixons stores, and we are in conversations about getting them into the next 270 Dixons shops."

The UK Apple boss is optimistic about talks with the high-street electrical retailer, as the company now comes to the negotiation table with a substantial high-street retail presence of its own.

Reports reaching Macworld suggest that iPod availability is constrained. Rogers promised: "We'll catch up on supplies," explaining, "you can't start conversations when you have lots of supply – you need to be in there and then meet demand."

Apple is optimistic about the new Virgin deal, though it recognizes many consumers visit Dixons or Argos to get electrical items, such as CD players. "Maybe we can change that. People don't generally go to Virgin to buy such equipment, but they do buy their music there," he said.