AOL has hitched its cart to the online music business with the acquisition of Internet music pioneers Spinner Networks and Nullsoft.
Nullsoft is the developer of the Winamp MP3 player for Windows and ShoutCAST, an MP3 streaming audio system.
Spinner's Internet music service Spinner.com offers access to 175,000 songs from 350 record labels and claims to attract 1.5 million listeners a month.
AOL says it will use technologies from the two companies, bought for a combined price of $400 million (£248 million), to enable its customers to play all leading formats of Internet music.
The company plans to create customised music offerings for AOL, Compuserve, Netcenter and ICQ brands and will offer live and Internet-only radio, sporting and other public events as well as downloadable music.
"We will build on the brands (Spinner and Nullsoft) have already got and embed their technology into our services," said an AOL US spokesman.
AOL would not reveal when its new services would be launched. However, Clive Longbottom, an analyst at UK research firm Strategy Partners, believes it is likely to be in a matter of weeks.
AOL was forced to get into the MP3 digital music space or risk being left behind by its rivals, Longbottom said.
"They all fought like mad to make sure that MP3 didn't get on but we're starting to see companies like Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com get interested in MP3," Longbottom said.
While AOL would not be the first to market with a good MP3 offering, it would be the first large company to do so, Longbottom said.
Internet music remains a fledgling industry in the UK but with the advent of better playing devices, it is likely to grow rapidly in popularity.
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