HP is beginning to put its muscle behind its future online music offering, in which it will sell an own-branded Apple iPod and direct music buyers to the iTunes Music Store.

Last night, the company launched its HP Music website – a special section of its site in which it promotes its HP iPod and offers a direct download link for customers to download iTunes. The URL shows the service to be going live for US customers initially.

HP site visitors are downloading a version of iTunes labelled 'iTunes (HP), though the software itself is visually identical to existing versions of iTunes for Windows. Users are directed to www.apple.com/itunes/hp/download.

A note on the site explains the joint move: "HP and Apple have partnered to bring the award-winning iTunes music jukebox software onto your PC and into your digital world!

"Now you can enjoy the revolutionary digital music experience that's changing the way the world listens, all in the comfort of a Windows-based environment."

With 110,000 outlets worldwide, HP is expected to get iPods into areas Apple can't quite reach, extending the power of the Mac vendor’s music platform, and putting more weight behind its chosen AAC standard.

Macworld yesterday reported that HP plans a sales drive on its own-branded iPod in China.