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Wednesday, March 09, 2011, 05:55 am PT (08:55 am ET)

Microsoft, RIM plan services to compete with Apple's iTunes

Two of Apple's chief rivals are working on their own separate services to compete with iTunes, as Research in Motion has partnered with 7digital for its PlayBook tablet, and Microsoft is cooking up a secret project dubbed "Ventura."

RIM's PlayBook to have 7digital store

When RIM's PlayBook touchscreen tablet ships this year, it will come preloaded with the 7digital store and offer access to about 13 million songs, the company announced Wednesday. The inclusion of the 7digital store is a change for RIM, which has not preloaded such services on its BlackBerry smartphones.

The British music service offers pay-per-track songs at a quality of 320kbps. A preview of the PlayBook with 7digital is said to be planned for this week's South by Southwest conference in Austin, Tex.

"The 7digital Music Store is a perfect complement to the high-performance BlackBerry PlayBook, providing users with fast searches and downloads, and a slick interface that makes it very easy to discover, purchase and enjoy music," said Alistair Mitchell, Vice President, BBM Platform & Integrated Services. "We are thrilled to be working with 7digital to provide BlackBerry PlayBook users with access to an amazing catalog of 13 million tracks."

RIM's alignment with 7digital is clearly an effort to counter Apple's iTunes Store, which comes installed on every iPad and iPhone. iTunes is by far the largest seller of digital music, with one recent study estimating that Apple controls 66 percent of online music sales.

RIM's 7-inch PlayBook is scheduled to launch in the coming months as RIM plans to enter the tablet market and take on Apple's iPad. The Canadian device maker has not yet announced a price for the multi-touch device.

Microsoft's "Ventura" product

Microsoft may replace its Zune brand with a new music and video discovery and consumption service codenamed "Ventura," according to Mary-Jo Foley of ZDNet. The new project is said to be in development in the Redmond, Wash., software giant's Entertainment and Devices division.

Microsoft reportedly said it is "committed to providing a great music and video experience," but would not comment on the project. Rumors have persisted that the company plans to abandon the Zune line of devices and rebrand its music and video services entirely.

The Zune started as a portable media player intended to compete with Apple's iPod, but failed to gain traction. Microsoft's last update to the hardware line, the Zune HD, was released in September 2009.

In addition to hardware, Zune also became a brand for Microsoft's digital content sales and streaming music subscriptions. The Zune storefront was expanded to other Microsoft products like Windows and the Xbox 360 in an effort to compete with Apple's iTunes.