I Tunes offers new prices

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — Apple on Tuesday changed its trademark standard of charging 99 cents per song at online shop iTunes in a deal with recording studios that strips anti-piracy software from digital downloads.

Songs now sell for 69 cents, 99 cents or 1.29 dollars with studios deciding pricing.

Music studios have long lobbied Apple to charge more for songs at iTunes.

The California maker of iPods, iPhones and Macintosh computers had steadfastly maintained a 99-cents-per-song price structure at iTunes since it launched the online music and movie shop in 2003.

"Apple really was trying to keep the pricing structure very simple, and the guy that had the stature and the power to push back on the recording industry was Steve Jobs," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley.

"I think this is indicative of him not being there, and Apple not having the power it once had. Quite frankly, recording industry executives were scared to death of Steve."

Apple chief Jobs, a 54-year-old cancer survivor, is taking a medical leave of absence because of "complex" health issues.

Apple vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller filled in for Jobs in January at a Macworld Expo in San Francisco, heralding the new iTunes prices during a keynote speech.

"To start coming up with complex pricing schemes, you are going to have problems," Enderle said. "An advantage of iTunes was one price for everything."

Apple evidently made the pricing concession in exchange for studios backing off demands for digital rights management (DRM) software that prevents music from being copied.

Schiller promised that all songs in the iTunes library would be available DRM-free by this month.