Apple Computer, which gets a third of its sales from iPod music players, started an iTunes online music store in Japan, offering more than...

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Apple Computer, which gets a third of its sales from iPod music players, started an iTunes online music store in Japan, offering more than 1 million songs, including Rolling Stones recordings that have never been released online.

Songs from 15 Japanese record companies will be available for download, Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive officer, said yesterday at a Tokyo conference, which featured a live performance by Grammy award-winning singer Beck.

Ninety percent of the songs will cost 150 yen ($1.35) each, with the rest at 200 yen apiece. The Sony-backed Mora service offers downloads for 150 yen to 370 yen each.

Expanding into Japan will help Apple boost sales of music downloads, iPods and personal computers, in a market that accounted for about 6 percent of total revenue in the third quarter. Apple faced hurdles in offering iTunes in some countries because of issues with intellectual property rights and negotiations with companies on fees.

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“Apple is a bit late entering the Japan market, but it’s still very much a developing market,” said Motoharu Sone, an analyst with UFJ Tsubasa Securities who covers online-content developers. “You can expect Apple to strengthen its hardware business along with” the iTunes store.

Downloads from iTunes stores topped 500 million earlier this month since the service started in April 2003. The company, which now offers the service in 20 countries, sells songs in the U.S. for 99 cents each.

Legal music downloads worldwide tripled to 180 million in the first half of 2005, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Apple reached an agreement with ABKCO Music & Records, which owns the copyright on early Rolling Stones albums, to offer the band’s songs exclusively on iTunes worldwide, Jobs said. “We are ushering in a whole new age of digital music,” Jobs said. “We think this is going to change the experience of discovering and buying and enjoying music in Japan.”

Apple’s iTunes will face competition in Japan from Label Gate’s Mora Web site, and other existing services. Tower Records Japan Wednesday said it started a venture with Los Angeles-based Napster to start a music-download service in Japan in the next year. Apple iTunes also will sell Japanese books on audio.

Mora, which is operated by a group comprising 18 domestic record companies, has more than 200,000 songs available for download. Yahoo! Japan, the country’s most-visited Web portal, started a fee-based music download site in February with the Mora group.