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iTunes store expansion: Apple opens its online store in 12 more countries

Apple introduced its iTunes store to 12 new countries in Asia on Wednesday, giving people there the chance to spend countless hours lost among millions of songs, movies, TV shows, apps, podcasts….you get the idea.

Citizens of Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam will be able to buy music (and more) from local artists as well as renowned international acts. Apple says more than 20 million songs are currently available for purchase on its iTunes store.

Those using the new localized versions will also be able to start using Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud feature that allows users to download their previously purchased iTunes music to their iOS devices at no additional cost. iTunes Match, which allows you to stream your music from the cloud regardless of whether you bought it through iTunes, will also be available to users in the new countries, though a payment is required for the service.

Apple’s iTunes application, which runs on both Macs and PCs, launched in 2001, initially offering a way for people to buy music for their iPod music player. It came at a time when the music business was becoming increasingly concerned about the damage it believed illegal file-sharing was doing to its industry.

Once the then Apple boss Steve Jobs struck a deal with the major record labels to sell their songs through the iTunes store, the software really took off, iPods sold in their millions, and the way people bought and managed their music changed forever.

In recent years the iTunes store has expanded to include a wide range of material, including movies, TV shows, apps, books, audiobooks, podcasts and more, and now supports not only the iPod but also the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

In other Apple-related news, the company launched a new stand-alone Podcasts app on Tuesday, with the aim of making it easier for users to discover and subscribe to podcasts. The podcast feature was previously part of the iOS iTunes app. If you’re a podcast fan, you can find out more about the new app here.