Universal Music is leading the charge by the major labels into the next phase of the digital music services. Spiral Frog is the recepient of a reputed $10 million investment and catalogue agreement from Universal, which is obviously hoping to try and break the Apple/iTunes hold over digital music. A US launch is ‘planned’ for later this year and a UK launch early next year – but don’t ask Universal UK about it as the announcement seems to have caught them slightly on the hop i.e. no one in the US told them about it (shhh).

How will it make that leap? Well, SpiralFrog will allow you to download music for free in Wnidows Media format (you already have an iPod? Sorry), once you watched some ads. Oh, and you have to log in every month otherwise you lose *all* your music. You didn’t notice that bit? You thought the music was yours, as in yours to keep and do what you want with? Nah.

Ah well, there’s the rub. The very thing that has held back Napster and Rhapsody (apart from proprietary, sorry open DRM) is the exact thing that SpiralFrog will go with.

THe increased competition and change of model is good for the industry as a whole but I don’t see the legs on this frog making a leap over the Apple gorilla.