Microsoft has teamed-up with Apple Master Peter Gabriel’s OD2 network to launch an a la carte music-download services across Europe, reports the Financial Times.

Microsoft's move will compound Apple's frustration at being unable to expand its iTunes Music Store into Europe. It has been stymied by complex country-by-country royalty issues.

Microsoft's service, which launches today, uses Windows Media 9 software, which it is not supported on Macs. It will offer 200,000 songs from 8,500 artists for around €99 (about 75p) each.

OD2 holds existing agreements with record labels across Europe, and already distributes a host of tracks through its partner sites. While initial media reports claim Microsoft has launched the service, it appears it has simply agreed to become an OD2 licensed distributor.

The move underlines the importance with which the music industry regards Apple’s iTunes Music Store, which put the notion of consumer rights and single track, non-subscription downloads firmly on the agenda.

Apple has sold over 6.5 million tracks since its service launched in April, and intends launching a US Windows-friendly service before the end of the year.

Microsoft, which holds 96 per cent of the computer market, is currently under investigation by the European Commission (EC) over claims that Windows Media Player gives Microsoft an unfair competitive advantage.

The EC is threatening to charge Microsoft 10 per cent of its annual operating income, and believes it has a strong case against the company.