Microsoft continues its battle to dominate digital music distribution, with news it plans to make its music services available to mobiles before Apple does.

Microsoft last week settled its case with UK mobile handset maker, Sendo. Sendo had alleged Microsoft to have shared its hardware secrets with low cost mobile manufacturers and a bitter dispute ensued. Despite the mobile industry's reluctance to reach deals with the software giant, Microsoft has managed to achieve deals with Motorola and Samsung.

The company wants to get its software into mobiles before it's beaten to the punch by Apple, so consumers will be able to play music on their mobiles that they have saved and acquired in Windows Media.

Microsoft's ever-extending business interests

Windows Digital Media division director Erik Huggers told Reuters: "We've been hush-hush about it - we understand this is a major market opportunity."

The idea is that enabled devices would allow users to buy, download and play songs acquired in Windows Media format. "Our goal is to sign up all the major handset makers," Huggers said.

Analysts think consumers want mobile phones that integrate music player-like features. With this in mind Samsung last week announced its intention to release a hard drive-equipped mobile phone.

What's happening in Apple labs?

Apple in July agreed a deal with Motorola to get iTunes Music Store compatibility with that company's handsets.

Motorola chairman and CEO Ed Zander said: "We can't think of a more natural partnership than this one with Apple, the brand synonymous with easy-to-use, legal music downloading, and Motorola, the innovator in mobile technology.

"Being able to transfer songs you've purchased from iTunes to Motorola mobile handsets expands the market reach for both of us and drives new revenue for customers, delivering an amazing music experience to millions of wireless users."

Apple is the current market leader in this space, in terms of music and music player sales.

Apple director of QuickTime product marketing, Frank Casanova, will deliver a keynote speech at the Cellular Telephone and Internet Association (CTIA's) Wireless IT and Entertainment 2004 event in October.

He will share the stage with Qualcomm Wireless and Internet Group president, Dr. Paul Jacobs and Vodafone Group Services executive head of content development, Graeme Ferguson.