The poet George Alan O'Dowd once wrote:

I'll teach you
and you'll never be sure
if the way that you need
is too much like greed
decide if you are rich or you're poor

The author, better known as Culture Club front "man" Boy George, celebrates his 43rd birthday today. We're not sure what he meant -- that Boy George was such a kidder -- but it seemed like something that should be passed along.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Apple iTunes' Global Rivals

By Seth Jayson

As the old chestnut has it, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But in the high-stakes and fast-moving world of digital music sales, compliments like that can kill. In the U.S., we've long heard about plans from Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT), Sony(NYSE: SNE), and others to elbow their way into Apple's(Nasdaq: AAPL) growing music market.

Today, a couple of powerhouses in the European download wars fired a pair of preemptive PR volleys, trying to take back a bit of the press that Jobs and Co. are hoping to monopolize with a European launch for iTunes.

Roxio's (Nasdaq: ROXI) Napster today announced a partnership with NTL, the U.K.'s leading broadband provider. The firm launched its download service in the U.K. last month to little fanfare, at least compared to what Apple can manage. Doing so put it in direct competition with On Demand Distribution (OD2), a sort of digital music "wholesaler" that is the No. 1 European download provider, through its work for front-ends like Coke's(NYSE: KO), Microsoft's(Nasdaq: MSFT) MSN France, NEC's(Nasdaq: NIPNY) Packard Bell, and other affiliate sites in Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Belgium, and The Netherlands.

A bit of a price war ensued, and today, OD2 also turned up the heat in anticipation of iTunes' arrival, announcing its SonicSelector service, which will allow Web users to stream music for as little as 1 pence (U.K.) per song via a plug-in for Windows Media Player 9. Songs can also be downloaded the more traditional way for 0.5 euros per track.

What all this means for investors is tough to gauge. So far, Apple's been the only one to profit from digital music with any consistency, though the iPod does much better than iTunes. Roxio's prospects look mixed, and behemoths like Microsoft and Wal-Mart can afford to screw things up. With a winning formula for service and hype, this is Apple's game to lose, but given Cupertino's sketchy computer sales, the firm depends heavily on the digital music biz, where anything can happen. Priced at 65 times trailing earnings and 48 times this year's estimates, shares look too rich for reality.

For more Fool coverage of the music download biz, see:

Fool contributor Seth Jayson owns no company mentioned. View his Fool profile here.

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Nokia Digs Clams

By Seth Jayson

By now, you must have heard about Nokia's early year disaster -- the big loss in market share that caused investors to drop Nokia stock like a hot sauna rock. The 40% to 29% decline gave hope to challengers like Motorola(NYSE: MOT), Ericsson(Nasdaq: ERICY), and Samsung and caused many of us to wonder if the Finnish firm could ever come back.

Many industry watchers blamed the problem on a lack of clamshells at the lower and middle level of the phone lineup. For my own part, I suggested that Nokia might be trying to fry too many fish at once, and that it would do better to focus. The PR out of this week's Nokia Connections conference hints that the cell-phone giant is making moves in the right direction.

Three of the five new handsets unveiled today happen to be "fold" designs, or clamshells, in the parlance of our times, and they should hit stores in the second half of the year.

At the entry level, the 2650 is a slick-looking folder with a color screen, Web browser, and calendar/contact software that should retail in the $150 range (before incentives). The 6170 incorporates a camera plus email, instant messaging, and one-touch "push to talk" service for around $300. At the higher end of the product line, the twist-and-flip 6260 adds video capability, Bluetooth wireless, data synchronization, and virtual private networking capabilities for about $500.

Most important, the year's expected 40-item array of new products has been trimmed to 35. Investors looking for meatier details -- like news on possible price cuts or firm targets for market share -- will have to wait, as this week's dog-and-pony show is all about the phones. But for suffering shareholders, the shift in priorities that is evidenced by the new releases ought to provide the first ray of sunshine in what has been a very cloudy spring.

For more Foolish coverage of Nokia:

Fool contributor Seth Jayson will soon be in the market for a new phone, but he owns no company mentioned. View his Fool profile here.

Discussion Board of the Day: McDonald's Fitness Videos

McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) is making plans to promote exercise and good health through children's videos. This is more than an act of goodwill -- it's part of McDonald's ongoing effort to shed its image as a purveyor of fat. Do you think McDonald's marketing move will actually help kids shed pounds? Share your opinions with other Fools on the McDonald's discussion board.

McDonald's Pushes C2

By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)

Last week, Coca-Cola(NYSE: KO) launched its Coca-Cola C2 soda nationwide, revving up the low-carb soda wars. It seems like C2 might be beating Pepsi(NYSE: PEP) Edge to the punch, as Coca-Cola C2 is being tested in McDonald's chains in several major cities.

It's not a huge test, as the drink will be offered in just 27 McDonald's restaurants. However, they are located in major cities -- Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Orlando, according to CNN.

Last week, Fool contributor Nathan Parmelee gave us a sneak peak at this phenomenon as it was occurring in Japan -- the move to distribute through U.S. McDonald's mirrors the promotional environment there. (Incidentally, Nathan's taste test also resulted in a "thumbs down.")

There are a lot of reasons you could argue that the climate's right for such a move. The low-carb diet movement is still strong, and a lasting effect may be people's urge to watch carbohydrate intake.

Further, McDonald's healthy menu additions have been working wonders, judging by the restaurant chain's same-store sales and customer traffic. The promotional aspect of this test is hard to deny either. CNN reported that last Friday through Sunday, customers in participating McDonald's were offered either a free C2 with any purchase or a free can of the soda with an extra value meal. Some of the test restaurants began offering Coca-Cola C2 as a fountain choice on June 11.

The testing phase will be used to determine whether there's enough consumer interest in Coca-Cola C2 to permanently carry it as an option, which of course could give it an advantage over Pepsi Edge. And Coke's extensive distribution deals with restaurants and fast-food chains could really give C2 a competitive advantage in locking in its low-carb beverages with potential users.

Maybe low-carb sodas will bomb and be seen as nothing more than another variation of a "diet drink," though there might be some credence to a middle-of-the-road option. One important point was highlighted on our Pepsi discussion board -- true Atkins or South Beach stalwarts avoid all sweeteners except sucralose (Splenda). Neither C2 nor Pepsi Edge fit the bill, leaving Diet Rite as the only soda on the market for die-hard Atkins or South Beach fans. We'll have to see what Cadbury Schweppes(NYSE: CSG) comes up with.

The possibility of McDonald's-sized distribution is a good reminder of Coke's strengths. Coke has a major corner on the market in restaurants and fast-food chains, which gives it strong partnerships and marketing muscle. The rest, of course, will be left up to consumer taste.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.

Quote of Note

"He who builds a better mousetrap these days runs into material shortages, patent-infringement suits, work stoppages, collusive bidding, discount discrimination -- and taxes." -- H. E. Martz

More on Today

Is Aeropostale (NYSE: ARO) a cheap Abercrombie (NYSE: ANF) knockoff or a solid company with excellent growth? Cam Goodwin takes a close look at the retailer's outlook in Upward Aeropostale.... A game of college poker provides a lesson in exchange rates and bond pricing in Bill Mann's Econ 101 at the Poker Table.

In other news:

For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.