Apple is in negotiations to launch iTunes Music Store in Ireland, reports claim.

It appears Apple originally planned to open for business in Ireland this Tuesday, when it extended its service across Europe. These plans, however, were stymied at the last minute by a disagreement with the Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO).

These disagreements have now been resolved, according to Phonographic Performance Ireland (PPI) sources, who told Macworld: "We (the Irish recording industry) expected iTunes in Ireland on Tuesday, just like the other ones."

However, a spokesperson for IMRO told Macworld this morning: "We are currently negotiating with Apple," confirming that "negotiations haven't concluded, yet".

Apple this week opened for business in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

The local label source said: "We welcome iTunes with open arms. We believe the issues have been resolved - I expect it to open very quickly."

However, local artist representatives repeated: "Negotiations continue".

A long wait?

Despite local enthusiasm for the service, it's debut may still face a wait.

Apple declined to comment on its Irish plans, saying: "We are not announcing any new stores beyond Canada in November at this point of time. We are committed to expanding the iTunes Music Store globally, and will announce new countries as and when they come on board."

Apple's iTunes Web site suggested that it may have originally planned to launch in Ireland when it announced its European roll-out - but that note has since been changed.

At the bottom of Apple's UK iTunes download page, the company currently says: "Purchases from the iTunes Music Store are available only in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK and the United States."

However, as of 4pm Thursday October 29, when Macworld last checked, this message read: "Purchases from the iTunes Music Store are available only in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK and the United States."

However, MacInformation contacted Apple with the older note, and was told that the inclusion of Ireland within this list was, "in fact, an error".

The IMRO representative said: "We 100 per cent support legal downloading services", adding their personal impression: "I'm sure our artists will welcome iTunes Music Store (subject to a succesful outcome to our current negotiations), in my own opinion."

Irish broadband - 'it can only get better'

While one OD2-supported music download service does exist in Ireland, any move into the territory will be hampered by the country's low broadband adoption rate. Ireland has one of the lowest broadband penetration rates in Europe, with many complaining that former state-owned telecoms company, Eirecomm, is not doing enough to make such services available.

Irish Labour Party spokesperson on Communications, deputy Tommy Broughan, said this month: "The technological advance of broadband will change the way we live and work, but to reap the benefits of it, we must invest heavily in this technology to bring Ireland up to the highest international standards".

While Apple's well-known for keeping plans close to its chest, local music industry sources confirm that there is good demand for the service among Irish music makers and fans.

Apple has confirmed it will open a Music Store in Canada in November, and online reports also claim that progress continues toward launching iTunes in Japan, though the latter venture has faced local problems, too.

Apple Japan vice president Yoshiaki Sakito, a former Sony employee, has previously confirmed Apple's intent to launch in Japan "within the year".