Apple will deliver the iTunes Music Store to European users next year, reports Reuters.

The report quotes Apple CEO Steve Jobs as saying: "We're clearly working on it but I think we'll do it next year." He was speaking after yesterday's Apple Expo keynote speech.

Europe's online-music market remains potentially very lucrative, despite country-by-country complexities over distribution. European music sales accounted for 34 per cent of world sales in 2002 with $11,000 million value.

A report from international music-business body IFPI states: "The recent uptake of broadband in the French and UK markets poses a threat to sales in terms of increasing Internet piracy, but is also an opportunity for the rapidly evolving legitimate online markets."

Jobs also told Reuters: "We're very much on track to execute iTunes for Windows.

The music business understands the need for legitimate music-download services. IFPI chairman and CEO Jay Berman said: "This is a time of transition for the record industry, as it adapts to and shapes the age of digital technology and the Internet.

"The early success of Apple's service demonstrates that there is robust demand for paid downloads at a fair price, both in single and album format."

Apple remains focused on launching its service for US Windows users, with reports claiming Apple's Windows service will launch as soon as mid-October.

Delivering a Windows service will increase Apple's potential US market by a factor of 20, as Macs account for approximately 5 per cent of the US PC market. The US is also the world's largest music market, accounting for 38.8 per cent of sales in 2002, for a value of $12,609.4 million, according to the IFPI.

Industry insiders say Apple's next priority is the Japanese market – the world's second-biggest music consumer, accounting for 15.4 per cent of global music sales in 2002, and worth $5 billion. To grab a slice of that IT-literate, gadget-focused market, Apple would simply have to arrange digital-distribution deals with the five majors labels there. However, Sony is likely to emerge as Apple's largest competitor in the Japanese downloads market.