Apple Japan plans to launch a localized version of the iTunes Music Store in the coming months, reports claim.

The company has not officially announced when or if it plans to launch the service, but staff at its newly opened retail store in the Ginza shopping district in Tokyo have been telling customers the company is currently planning to launch the service "in the spring."

A company spokeswoman contacted today would not comment on launch plans or confirm if planning for the service had begun. But Apple CEO Steve Jobs told Japan's Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper in late November 2003 that talks with record companies had already begun.

At present there are no major online music stores operating in Japan, but some record companies have their own services. Sony Music Direct (Japan), for example, sells a mixture of music by local and international artists on its Web site in a copy-protected digital format for ¥210 (£1.10) per song. That’s around double the 99 cents that Apple charges US customers on its iTunes Music Store. Japan is the world's second-largest music market after the US.