Microsoft is offering a US public preview of its own attempt at a music store, the MSN Music Store.

The service offers music downloads in Wiondows Media 10 format at 99 cents per track. The company claims it has licensed one million songs from all the major record labels and 3,000 independents, though just 500,000 tracks are available. The service is expected to launch in mid-October.

Microsoft makes its move

As Microsoft prepares to flex its market advantage in OS installation and financial clout to support its attempt at achieving market dominance in online music, MSN corporate vice president Yusuf Mehdi spoke with the Seattle Times yesterday.

Mehdi said the company's launch of a music store is something it would "definitely" have done. "The Apple effort didn't really change what we have done," he said.

Apple leads, Microsoft follows

He does, however, admit that Apple launched its own service "before we had even thought about doing our particular service".

It turns out the company only decided to create its own music service one year ago - after Apple CEO Steve Jobs had finally convinced the labels to entertain the possibility of music downloads.

He is critical of many existing services: "In my opinion, a lot of services have rushed out to market, have not been very good, and we've seen that from the lack of consumer enthusiasm."

Reflecting the company's initial position in the browser market, when it had to supplant Netscape Navigator as the dominant browser years after the Internet took off, Mehdi said, "since we weren't going to be the first out, we might as well be one of the best out."