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Apple ready to roll with iTunes service in Japan

Apple is reportedly ready to launch a localized version of its iTunes online download service in Japan.

According to a Mainichi Daily News report ,Yoshiaki Sakito, president of Apple Japan, made the announcement on Tuesday in Tokyo.

Japan is the largest music market Apple's iTunes service has yet to undertake.

Unfortunately, the report offers no timeframe or details; but it does provide a some background on the Japanese music industry.

"In Japan, rigid controls by CD companies on the copyright of music have blocked companies from launching full-scale digital music operations," the report notes.

"In the face of the rapid growth of the digital music market, however, Avex, a major CD production company, announced it will launch a digital music business, and other CD firms are leaning toward accepting such a move."

Still, Label Gate Co., a joint venture founded by major CD firms, and Microsoft Corp. were able to form small-scale digital music operations in Japan last year. However, neither service is compatible with the iPod.

Industry sources told Mainichi Daily News the arrival of an iTunes download service would likely speed up growth of the digital music market in Japan, where digital music players have recently become very popular.

For the most part, negotiations between Apple and the CD firms have been a waiting game. Apple began meeting with Japan's major CD firms over a year and a half ago, but witnessed negotiations progress at only a minimal pace — eventually falling flat. In addition to price discrepancy disputes, the CD firms also deemed Apple's copy protection measures to be inadequate.

But as Sakito said in an August 2004 interview, "The record companies won't be able to swim against the tide forever.''