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Apple cuts copy protection and prices on iTunes

Friday, January 9, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple Inc. is cutting the price of some songs in its market-leading iTunes online store to as little as 69 cents and plans to make every track available without copy protection.

Apple's top marketing executive, Philip Schiller, said this week that iTunes song prices will come in three tiers: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. Record companies will choose the prices, which marks a significant change, since Apple previously made all songs sell for 99 cents.

Apple gave the record labels that flexibility on pricing as it got them to agree to sell all songs free of "digital rights management," or DRM, technology that limits people's ability to copy songs or move them to multiple computers. Apple had been offering a limited selection of songs without DRM, but by the end of this quarter, the company said, all 10 million songs in its library will be available that way.

While iTunes is the most popular digital music store, others have been faster to offer more songs without copy protection. Amazon.com Inc. started selling DRM-free music downloads in 2007 and swayed all the major labels to sign on in less than a year.

Schiller also announced that iPhone 3G users will be able to buy songs from the iTunes store using the cellular data network. Previously, iPhone users could shop for tunes when connected to a Wi-Fi hot spot.

New versions of two Mac software packages, including the iLife multimedia programs, were also unveiled. For instance, iPhoto '09 can recognize faces and sort photos based on who's in them. GarageBand '09 includes videotaped, interactive music lessons given by Sting and other musicians. Apple added more professional video editing features to iMovie '09.

Apple's answer to Microsoft Corp.'s Office productivity suite, called iWork, also got a makeover, including zippy new ways to add animation between slides in the Keynote presentation software. And Apple unveiled a "beta" test version of a website for sharing documents, iWork.com. Unlike Google Inc.'s online documents program, however, Apple's version does not allow people to edit documents in a Web browser.


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