WASHINGTON - The Beatles finally arrived on iTunes after what Apple's Steve Jobs described as "a long and winding road."
"The Beatles. Now on iTunes," Apple.com announced in large black letters above a full screen picture of the "Fab Four" - Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr - from their heyday in the 1960s.
"We're really excited to bring the Beatles' music to iTunes," McCartney said. "It's fantastic to see the songs we originally released on vinyl receive as much love in the digital world as they did the first time around."
The vast catalogue of Beatles hits has been barred for years from internet download sites amid legal squabbles, although their songs have long circulated as unlicensed downloads available from unlicensed peer-to-peer networks.
The announcement that the Beatles were making their legal Web debut on iTunes came from Apple Corps, the Beatles' company, EMI Group, their record label, and Apple, maker of the Macintosh computer, the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
After years of badgering, Starr, the drummer and only other surviving member of the band, said he would be "particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes.
"At last, if you want it - you can get it now - The Beatles from Liverpool to now!" Starr said in a press release.
Lennon's widow Yoko Ono linked the release to this year's 70th anniversary of his birth.
"In the joyful spirit of 'Give Peace A Chance,' I think it is so appropriate that we are doing this on John's 70th birthday year," she said.
Lennon, who was born on October 9, 1940, was shot dead outside his Manhattan apartment in December 1980.
"The Beatles on iTunes - Bravo!" said Olivia Harrison, Harrison's widow. Harrison died of cancer in November 2001.
"We love the Beatles and are honored and thrilled to welcome them to iTunes," said Jobs, Apple's chief executive and an avowed Beatles fan.
"It has been a long and winding road to get here," he said. "Thanks to the Beatles and EMI, we are now realising a dream we've had since we launched iTunes 10 years ago."
All 13 Beatles studio albums - from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to Abbey Road to Revolver to The White Album are for sale on iTunes - NZ$21.99 for a single album and $35.99 for a double album.
Fans can also purchase individual songs for NZ$2.39 each.
Also available through iTunes is a comprehensive "Beatles Box Set" for $269.99 which features the 13 studio albums plus a video of the Beatles first US concert, Live at the Washington Coliseum, 1964.
EMI Group chief executive Roger Faxon called the arrival of the Beatles on iTunes a "great milestone in the development of digital music."
The Beatles founded London-based Apple Corps in 1968 and it has administered their catalogue since then, racking up sales of over 600 million records, tapes and compact discs.
Apple, the California-based gadget-maker, was embroiled in a long-running trademark dispute with Apple Corps which was finally resolved in 2007.
That agreement raised hopes that the Beatles would make an appearance soon on iTunes but it took another three years of tortuous negotiations between EMI, Apple and Apple Corps before it finally came about.