Inc. signage is displayed on a computer monitor in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, April 1, 2011. (BLOOMBERG)

Amazon quietly toppled a monopoly this week by offering Apple users an alternate path to download music onto their devices.

A new Web-based music store, introduced Thursday, is specifically optimized for the Safari browser on the iPhone and iPod Touch. That means, for the first time, Apple users can download music to their devices without using the iTunes store. Instead, tracks purchased on the Web will get thrown over to Amazon’s streaming Cloud Player app.

It’s a sly move that signals Amazon is focusing more heavily on its music business, especially when combined with the last week’s unveiling of “AutoRip,” which provides some free digital copies of music with the purchase of CDs, earlier this month.

It also means that Amazon has managed to get around Apple's standard fee for developers, which dictates that the Cupertino, Calif. firm gets a 30 percent cut of app sales and in-app purchases.

Amazon is one of the four companies that Google chairman Eric Schmidt has named as the major titans of tech, along with Apple, Facebook and — of course — Google. But Amazon is generally the quietest of the four, taking small steps to extend its reach as it adds plenty of service businesses to add to its core success as the Web’s most recognizable retailer.

Not that Amazon hasn’t been making waves, particularly when it comes to dealing with the content it offers on its site. Apple and Amazon were recently ordered to talk out their dispute over what Amazon calls its “Appstore,” which Apple argues is too close to the name of its own “App Store.”

And the company won quite the battle when the Department of Justice announced that it had found evidence that Apple and five book publishers had engaged in “price-fixing” to keep Amazon from undercutting the price of e-books. Four publishers have since settled with the government in the case, resulting in lower Amazon e-book prices and, in some cases, limited refunds on past purchases.

Meanwhile, in small bursts, Amazon has become a formidable force in the world of multimedia. Adding to its library of e-books and music, it’s also built up an impressive catalog of streaming video titles and made partnerships to get its video player on game consoles and mobile devices.

In other words, it’s creating an ever-growing pool of media that could eventually rival Apple’s holdings on the iTunes and iBooks stores — and Amazon’s already shown that it’s willing to work around Apple’s walled garden to get to its customers.

Related stories:

Amazon ‘AutoRip’ will give free digital files of purchased CD tracks

Amazon makes music store available to iPhone, iPod Touch users for the first time

Amazon: The dark horse of 2012

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