Sony will launch its Connect music-download service in the UK, France and Germany on July 5.

Sony European network services VP Robert Ashcroft told French news agency AFP: "We will start in France, the United Kingdom and Germany, and open in Switzerland, Austria, Scandinavia and the Netherlands at the end of the year. The Spanish and Italian versions of Sony Connect will be online in spring 2005."

This follows Apple's launch of the iTunes Music Store in the UK, France and Germany last month. Ashcroft justified Sony's delay – the company had announced it would launch the store in June – citing "software development projects which took longer than planned".

According to Ashcroft the store will open with the big five record companies and "approximately 150 independent houses" on board.

He alleged that Apple's claim that the European store offers 700,000 iTunes tracks to each country might not be true. "I don't know where Apple gets its famous 700,000 titles from. We have signed up with everyone, and we don't come out with that figure – we will be offering 500,000 titles."

Sony's pricing strategy mirrors that of Apple – songs will be available for €0.99. However, there will be "a different price range for new items," Ashcroft added.

The report notes that unlike Apple's European site, which due to being located in Luxembourg only has to pay value-added sales tax at only three per cent, the Sony site will have to pay 16 per cent tax because it is based in Germany.