Apple’s US success story with iTunes Music Service will be far harder to repeat in Europe, reports Reuters.

As well as having to deal with the region’s complex multilingual, multicultural and multi-regulatory issues, Apple is facing stiff competition from already established music-distribution rivals.

"There's a big race for Europe,” London-based EMI Group executive VP John Rose told Reuters. “In the first half of next year, we can expect four to five of the big US names in Europe."

One of the main European players is UK-based On Digital Distribution (OD2), the digital service provider co-founded by rock legend Peter Gabriel.

In addition there are other established players, such as, and France's FNAC. MTV Networks Europe and Italian Internet service provider Tiscali also operate pan-European services.

Meanwhile, the national press in the UK continues to laud Apple’s iPod. Writing in The Guardian, Ashley Norris says the iPod " holds all the aces in the MP3 jukebox market”.

He goes on to say the iPod is "the Walkman of the 21st century”, offering “superb design, compact size, usability and, unusually for Apple, competitive price”.

He adds: "In terms of design, there has been nothing to touch the cool, elegant lines and contemporary white finish of the player. Other jukeboxes simply look industrial."

However, Norris grumbles that the iPod “offers just seven or eight hours of playback before the batteries need a recharge” and that “almost all of the opposition has at least 12 hours".