Universal Music's entry into The Music download market is likely to put commercial pressure on Apple's iTunes store, a technology analyst has claimed.

The warning comes on the day a new online music store is launched, to sell digital songs by Universal artists which do not have the customary copy-protection technology attached.

In an announcement earlier this month Universal revealed that it had teamed up with search engine Google, so that consumers searching for music information online will automatically be directed to the new gBox store.

The new online retail site will be selling music by Universal artists which do not feature the usual digital rights management (DRM) protection that is used by the recording industry to prevent tracks in a digital format from being copied.

It is part of a trial that is being carried out by the world's largest music label to assess the impact that removing the copy-protection technology will have on online piracy and consumer demand for songs that can be freely copied and played on portable music players and computers.

Commenting on the trial, technology journalist Adrian Mars told BBC Radio Five that the initiative was likely to put pressure on Apple to offer DRM free music through its popular iTunes store.

He told the Wake Up to Money programme that Apple currently had a "stranglehold" on the market due to the fact that tracks downloaded from the retail site for its iPod music player were subject to DRM technology.

"That's technology that means you can only play Apple protected tracks on iPods and a few other things, which means that Apple have the stranglehold on most of the music you can buy for it," Mr Mars stressed.

He added that in the future consumers were increasingly likely to choose mobile phones with built in MP3 players to listen to their favourite tunes, thus making the iPod somewhat redundant.

Universal, whose artists include Amy Winehouse and Bon Jovi, has confirmed that other online retailers including Wal-Mart and Amazon.com are also participating in its trial.

21/08/2007 14:36:04