August 4, 2005 1:28 PM PDT

Amazon.com preps digital music service

Ecommerce giant Amazon.com appears to be preparing a digital music service to compete with Apple Computer's iTunes at last, according to a job listing posted on a popular industry blog.

The ad, posted on Paidcontent.org (and since removed), sought a "content acquisition manager" for the company's "forthcoming digital music service."

The company has not publicly said that it intends to launch a full-fledged digital music offering. However, several music industry executives confirmed on Thursday that the company has been actively discussing plans to enter the market for several months, including proposals for a subscription-based service.

Given the substantial reach of Amazon's online retail store, a new digital music component could gain traction more quickly than those of earlier rivals. But there is no guarantee. Analysts point out that other large brands, such as Sony, Microsoft and Yahoo, all have faced slow starts in the business.

"It takes a certain dedication and focus on that part of the business to make it profitable, and to make it compelling," said GartnerG2 analyst Mike McGuire. "We've seen earlier that having a big brand and being powerful in other media or online businesses doesn't guarantee online music success."

Amazon.com has provided perhaps the biggest question mark in the digital music business for some time. Many in the music industry expected it to follow Apple's lead into the digital download business quickly.

However, the company has bided its time, allowing Apple to dominate the download market, and a handful of companies including RealNetworks, Napster and Yahoo to blaze a slower trail with their subscription models.

Amazon has long offered free downloads drawn from new releases, but these have served largely as promotions for the full CDs.

An Amazon spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

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