UPDATE [Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 5:35am ET]: Based on numerous reports and tips from our readers, iTunes music as well as movie rentals and purchases are now available in these twelve European Union countries: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Additionally, iBookstore is also live in 25 new EU countries (was only available in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Australia and Canada before): Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.
Licensing complications and the fragmented European Union market have proved thus far too tough a nut to crack for Apple’s iTunes Store which lacks the presence in twelve of the 27 EU member countries. If Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita is to be believed, things could change “soon” as Apple allegedly gears up to launch the iTunes Music Store in ten new countries in the European Union. This comes from “a person associated with the music industry”. Apple is “technically ready to take off” and another source hinted at an October launch.
The EU member states allegedly getting Apple’s music store include Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary which have a combined population of 60 million. As for the other seven EU member states getting iTunes, it’s anyone’s guess, but it’s worth mentioning that the UE markets where iTunes does not operate include Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Perhaps Apple will announce the iTunes Music Store expansion at its iPhone-related event next Tuesday. Meanwhile, reader Juri tipped us that iTunes movie rentals have just gone online in Finland, as you can see in the below screenshot. The Finnish iTunes store has no specific category for movie rentals yet, but it is possible to use the search feature to find and rent flicks for €3.99 (€4.99 for HD rentals, €13.99 per SD purchase).
It also looks like Apple is prepping to launch its movie store in Scandinavia and another reader, Frederik, says movie rentals and purchases hit the iTunes Denmark store. OneMoreThing.nl also spotted movies in the Dutch and Belgian iTunes Stores. Currently there are about 270 titles from 20th Century Fox, Universal and Buena Vista. Most movies are available for purchase or rent. No sign of TV shows yet. With that in mind, it’s easy to speculate that Apple TV may be showing up in those countries soon.
Unlike the App Store which operates in dozens of territories globally, Apple’s online music store is still plagued with limited availability. There has been no word from Apple when the store might expand. Steve Jobs in the past promised a pan-European iTunes Store without committing to a time frame. Even today, not all local iTunes stores have been localized yet and they often have different catalogs. Steve Jobs told the audience of developers and journalists at WWDC 2011 that Apple’s online-only music store sold 15 billion songs since its inception eight years ago. He noted the figure makes Apple the largest seller of music globally, in any format.