Best Buy aims to take digital music to a wider audience by introducing a music player and subscription service with partners SanDisk and RealNetworks.
Best Buy , the top U.S. consumer electronics retail chain, is hoping to use the broad reach of its stores to compete with Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod music player and iTunes digital download store.
The company said it would use Real's Rhapsody subscription service, hand-in-hand with a new line of SanDisk Sansa digital music players, much in the way that iPods work with iTunes.
The service and players will both be available starting October 15 and will be heavily supported in its more than 840 nationwide stores.
Leading technology and media companies are also vying to make a dent in Apple's lead in the music download services. In the last two months, Microsoft Corp. , Nokia , Sony Ericsson, and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. have all announced plans for music download services combined with new devices.
Microsoft is making the highest profile push with its Zune brand, which is launching ahead of the U.S. holiday season.
Best Buy said it will throw its promotional weight behind the new service, offering buyers of the Sansa a free two-month subscription with up to 30 hours of preloaded music already on the player.
As part of the promotion customers are also allowed unlimited access to millions of songs during the period.
The subscription download service is normally priced at $14.99 a month and users can also buy individual downloads at 99 cents a song. Apple's iTunes also sells songs at 99 cents each but does not have a monthly subscription.
The Sansa player (Sandisk) is priced at $139.99 for a 2-gigabyte model, which holds roughly 500 songs, compared with $149 for Apple's 2-gigabyte iPod Nano. The Sansa 8-gigabyte model is priced at $249.99, comparable to the 8-gigabyte iPod Nano.