Samsung Electronics is working on a competitor to Apple's iTunes Music Store, the company said today.

Development is already underway and Samsung is working with partners on the service, said Kwon Hyosun, a spokeswoman for the Seoul-based company. She was confirming comments made Friday by Choi Geesung, president of Samsung's digital media business, in a briefing with domestic reporters.

Samsung is widely regarded to have stumbled in the digital music player market. Although its memory chips can be found in a large number of music players, including Apple's latest video iPod, the company's own music players haven't achieved a high level of success with consumers – at least not in markets where Apple offers the iTunes Music Store.

Samsung's players are beating those from Apple in markets where the iTunes Music Store isn't available, according to Kwon. This led the company to conclude that a music store could be one of the missing pieces to leadership in the 21 major markets where Apple's download service is available.

Apple has long said that one of the secrets of its success has been not only its iPods, but the combination of its iPods, iTunes software and online music stores.

Downloads aren't impossible now for people with Samsung players. Many of the players support Windows Media, the format used by most online music stores, including those operated by Yahoo and Napster However, it's up to users to find a store and sign up for the service. By starting its own service, Samsung should make the process easier for its customers.

The Samsung store won't be the first from a maker of music players to challenge Apple. Sony operates the Connect music store and Reigncom, which produces players under the iRiver brand name, operates the Funcake store in South Korea. Many other companies have tie-ups with existing online music vendors. For example, Creative Technology Ltd. and Reigncom work with Singapore-based Soundbuzz in the Asia Pacific region.