The honeymoon is over, Richard Branson has joined the crowd intending to offer music download services, and Apple should be afraid.

Business Week suggests that Richard Branson's marketing muscle makes him a challenger to be feared. Reporter Alex Salkever says: "Virgin is the first potential challenger with branding moxie that can match even Apple's. The group, which posted revenues of $7 billion in 2003, also has far better natural distribution channels for digital music than Apple. The upshot? Steve, get ready to face the A-team."

Virgin has the advantage of being established in the mobile phone market. The report indicates that with mobile phones stating to offer music player functionality, Virgin will hold an "enviable position".

"It can easily begin to offer downloadable tunes through rapidly improving technology that can beam relatively fast streams of data directly to cell phones."

Virgin will also benefit from its popularity with the teen market. "Those same cell-phone teens buy a significant chunk of the CDs sold today. So they could likely be turned into online music buyers without too much trouble."

The company also has plans to add to its lineup a new personal music player that will compete with Apple's iPod. The Business Week report predicts: "That would give Virgin a "clicks and bricks" play that neither Apple nor any other online-music seller can currently match."