The big music companies sure must hate the Fraunhofer Institute for creating the MP3 codec. As we all know, MP3s, burning CDs and, more recently, legal downloads have turned the industry on its head and caused executives to starve inside of their ivory towers. Over in the UK, Universal is trying to right this wretched wrong by doing something a little different: they're going to be offering simple, stripped down CDs at a price that's competitive with the iTunes Music Store. The catch? (Come on, it's the record companies—there has to be a catch.) You'll end up paying about the same, or even more, than what you would pay now for regular CDs. That's right: Universal's grand strategy to winning back your hearts is to offer stripped down CDs for the price of regular CDs, defined as CDs that come in jewel cases and have a full booklet. Great thinking, guys!

Universal's new CDs will retail for ÂŁ7, or about $12.85. These CDs will come in a slip cover and come with no booklet. Right now, most retailers in the UK offer regular CDs for less than ÂŁ7. So yes, you're paying more for less. Even better, these CDs are only going to be (initially, at least) offered for Universal's older, back-catalogue acts. So they're competing against iTunes by offering old acts on stripped down CDs and ignoring their current acts, more than likely the ones being downloaded most heavily. Makes sense.

These stripped down CDs will be rolled across the UK and Europe beginning in September. Along with the stripped down CDs, Universal will also offer CDs in two other packages: the aforementioned regular CD as well as a CD bundled with a DVD. Will it be enough to stem the tide of iTunes downloading, as Universal hopes? Time will tell, but you can probably hazard a guess as to the house's opinion.

Universal prices CDs to match downloads [Guardian Unlimited via The Register]