HP to launch music service in Europe

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard, the world’s biggest maker of PCs, will launch a digital music service across key European markets on Monday, hoping to benefit from consumers’ rising appetite for new types of music download services.

A man tries the Acer Aspire One netbook at a computer mall in Taipei September 8, 2009. PC-RECOVERY/ REUTERS/Nicky Loh

The MusicStation service will be preloaded on 16 of HP’s personal computer models in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium and Austria.

The service has been developed and is managed by British digital music firm Omnifone. HP runs a similar service in United States with RealNetworks’ Rhapsody.

Such new subscription services helped to lift sales of digital music 12 percent last year to $4.2 billion, industry trade body IFPI said last week.

“As the world’s biggest PC vendor, HP has huge opportunity to create a viable competitor to iTunes due to its scale,” said Rob Lewis, chief executive of Omnifone.

Apple’s iTunes -- with a pay-per-download business model -- is the leading digital music distributor.

Consumers pay around 10 euros ($14.13) a month for access to all music in HP’s service. They can try the service for free for 14 days, and keep 10 tracks each month.

Across the Europe, Middle East and Africa region HP sold around 20 million personal computers last year, according to analysts, slightly ahead of Acer.

“With its huge scale and user base, HP’s 10-country introduction ... will help encourage legitimate access to digital music content,” Rob Wells, Universal Music’s digital music chief, said in a statement.

Global recorded music sales fell around 10 percent in 2009 as rampant illegal downloading continued to eat into legitimate digital and physical sales, according to IFPI. It estimates that around 95 percent of the music downloaded in 2009 was illegal.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Greg Mahlich