Rumours suggest iTunes is just days away

By Scott Kara

You can expect Apple to launch its iTunes Music Store here sometime on Wednesday or Thursday.

Sorry we can't be more precise, it's just that in keeping with its top secret policy when launching new products, Apple is not saying a thing.

Well, kind of: the hints are rife.

What we can say is the Herald has an interview with a big-wig from Apple - possibly on Wednesday morning sometime - to talk about a "new product". Well, hell-o. It confirms the strong industry rumours about the imminent arrival of the world's leading online music store.

Adding to the covert nature of Apple's publicity machine, the Herald would not be told the name of the company spokesperson or the new product until the interview.

"All we're allowed to do is let you know that it's an interview with a senior Apple person and that that person will be making an announcement," said a representative from advertising agency TBWA\Whybin.

The heavyweight from Apple will also be interviewed by TV3's John Campbell, Paul Holmes from Newstalk ZB and One News.

On Thursday, digital music distributor Jiggy.co.nz also hinted that iTunes was close by calling for local acts to submit albums for inclusion on the New Zealand version of the site.

However, Apple's Sydney-based Australia and New Zealand public relations manager, Fiona Martin, denied it was iTunes being announced.

She remained staunch in her refusal to comment on products that were not on the market.

"What happens with everything we launch, we let you know on the same day," she told TimeOut last month.

Campbell Smith, the chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (Rianz), says that if and when iTunes arrives it will boost the local online music market and be yet another option for consumers.

"We've got players in that market now but obviously something with the profile and international success of iTunes, and with the number of people it drags to it, it will make that market even more viable than it is now."

Meanwhile, this week electronics chainstore Dick Smiths launched its own music download site, ripit.co.nz.

One difference from iTunes is customers using Ripit can buy music with a credit card as well as vouchers available over the counter from Dick Smiths' outlets. Ripit downloads are in WMA file format, which cannot be transferred directly to an iPod.

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