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Monday, August 23, 2004, 09:00 am PT (12:00 pm ET)

iTunes-like Microsoft music store due this week

Microsoft Corp. is expected to announce its long-anticipated foray into the online music business this week, reports San Jose Mercury News.

The company will quietly launch the MSN online music store along with the new version of its Windows Media 10 player.

Early-release versions of the player look like knock-offs of Apple's iTunes Music Store, complete with brushed nickel finish. A button in the upper right corner of the player will take consumers to the download store.

Microsoft has reportedly told entertainment executives that it expects to introduce as many as 130 million people to the service when it prompts users to update their Windows Media Player software later this week. These estimates do not include an additional 300 million potentials who drop by the MSN site on a daily basis.

The company also claims that the music store will be compatible with nearly 60 digital music players, but not Apple's popular iPod.

Several slightly dated screenshots of the new media player are available across the web through Windows enthusiest sites such as www.jcxp.co.uk (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).