Apple: iTunes for Windows Off to Roaring Start

Declaring itself the early leader in the race to win market share in the digital music arena, Apple has announced it sold more than 1 million songs in less than four days after launching a Windows version of its iTunes music download site.

The company unveiled its Windows-compatible iTunes offering last Thursday at a fanfare-filled event, aiming to build on the enthusiasm consumers have shown for the original iTunes site, which worked only on Apple’s Mac OS.

Since the Windows launch, Apple said, users also have downloaded about 1 million copies of iTunes jukebox software for Windows.

It took about a week for the Mac-only iTunes site, which launched in April of this year, to reach the 1 million download level. The fact that the Windows version reached that milestone in half the time is no surprise, given the vast gap in operating system market share between Windows and Apple.

Ambitious Goals

Since April, Mac users have downloaded about 14 million songs from iTunes, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who during last week’s launch said his company’s goal is to sell 100 million downloads during the first year of iTunes’ operation. Apple claims it has sold at least 70 percent of all legitimate music downloads.

However, while Apple enjoys a clear playing field when dealing with its own software on Mac OS, the company is up against a quickly growing crowd of rivals in the Windows world. Later this month, Napster will relaunch as a paid download site under new owner Roxio.

Jobs said that despite competition, the flood of visitors to the iTunes site and the 1 million Windows downloads make iTunes the early frontrunner.

“Our competition isn’t even out of the starting gates yet,” he said in a statement.

Staying Ahead?

Whether or not Apple can retain its lead is open for debate. Most industry watchers expect both Napster and MusicMatch to be contenders, helping to keep any single company from becoming dominant in the market whilealso keeping prices low and quality high for consumers. Apple no doubt willbenefit from its recently announced AOL partnerships, which give it easy access to some 35 million Internet users.

Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff said that although Apple has set the standard for paid online music, particularly with regard to its ability to give users freedom to use their music however they want, the company faces fierce competition.

“Apple’s big advantage is the base of iPod users,” Bernoff told the E-Commerce Times. “Beyond that, Apple hasn’t had much success making inroads into the Windows world in other areas, and I don’t know if this is going to be much different.”

Jukebox Hero

The Windows version of iTunes works like the Mac model, with all songs available for 99 cents and broad personal-use rights given to the user. The music catalogs for the Mac and Windows versions are also identical and are expected to total about 400,000 songs by the end of this month.

Apple also upgraded its iTunes site with the Windows launch, adding such features as celebrity playlists, audiobooks and a method for parents to set aside download “allowances” for children.

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