Count on Apple Computer Inc. Chief Executive Steven P. Jobs to "think different," as his well-known advertising campaign admonishes. Until Apple (AAPL )unveiled its iTunes Music Store in April, bickering between record companies and online retailers over the best way to sell music on the Internet left consumers with little option but to get it for free via file-sharing services such as Kazaa.
Now, Apple has broken the logjam and made it possible for the music industry to successfully sell tunes on the Web. Jobs got the five major labels to agree on an appealing, simple set of terms. All songs would go for 99 cents, with no frustrating restrictions limiting fans' right to burn them to CDs, load them in a portable player, or share them with a few friends. Four months later, Apple has sold more than 10 million songs, and rivals ranging from Amazon.com Inc. to Microsoft Corp. are planning copycat services. Says Jobs: "We've shown there's a way out of this mess -- that there's a legal alternative consumers can use that's better than stealing online."
Now, Jobs is looking to go further. By yearend, Apple expects to extend the iTunes Music Store to work with PCs that run Microsoft's Windows operating systems, which represent more than 95% of the market. The trick for Jobs is to avoid leaving Apple where it often ends up -- doing much of the innovation and getting a small cut of the sales.