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Wednesday, May 30, 2007, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

Apple launches iTunes Plus alongside iTunes 7.2 release

Apple on Wednesday morning launched iTunes Plus, an extension of its iTunes Store that has begun selling DRM-free music tracks for $1.29 per song.

iTunes Plus

The new iTunes Plus tracks feature high quality 256 kbps AAC encoding for audio quality which the company claims is virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings. They also come without limitations on the type of music player or number of computers that purchased songs can be played on.

For the time being, iTunes Plus will consist of EMI’s digital catalog of recordings, including singles and albums from Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, Norah Jones, Frank Sinatra, Joss Stone, Pink Floyd, John Coltrane and more than a dozen of Paul McCartney’s classic albums available on iTunes for the first time.

Alongside the higher quality iTunes Plus tracks, iTunes will continue to offer its entire catalog of over five million songs as 128 kbps AAC encoded tracks with DRM. They'll continue to sell for just $0.99 per song.

iTunes will also provide customers a a simple, one-click option that will allow them to easily upgrade their library of previously purchased EMI content to iTunes Plus tracks for just 30 cents a song and $3.00 for most albums.

"Our customers are very excited about the freedom and amazing sound quality of iTunes Plus," said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. "We expect more than half of the songs on iTunes will be offered in iTunes Plus versions by the end of this year."

EMI music videos are now also available in iTunes Plus versions with no change in price. iTunes Plus songs purchased from the iTunes Store will play on all iPods, Mac or Windows computers, widescreen TVs with Apple TV and soon iPhones, as well as many other digital music players.

iTunes 7.2

In order to preview and purchase iTunes Plus music, customers will need to upgrade to iTunes 7.2. The new version was released early Wednesday morning as a free 29.6MB download or Macs and a 36.3MB download for Windows PCs.

Apple's iTunes Store features the world’s largest catalog with over five million songs, 350 television shows and over 500 movies. The iTunes Store has sold over 2.5 billion songs, 50 million TV shows and over two million movies, making it the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store.