Microsoft has announced that it is planning on offering a subscription download music service in an attempt to claw back some of the ground lost between it and Apple's iTunes service.

Microsoft, which launched its MSN Music download service last year to rival Apple's offering, said on Friday that "offering a subscription service was an important step in helping people find and discover great music online."

The subscription service is expected to be run similar to way to Napster or RealMedia's current offering. It would allow people to download unlimited tracks on a monthly basis for one set fee to be played on a number of different media devices including perhaps we think the Xbox 360.

Reports that Microsoft was getting closer to launching such a service, hit share prices of Napster by three percent and Apple by five percent.