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Apple notches up 50m music downloads

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Apple's iTunes Music Store customers are downloading songs at the rate of 2.5 million a week, a statistic that rather puts Napster's claim to five million downloads in the first four months in the shade.

Apple made the claim this evening while announcing its 50 millionth download, not including songs downloaded gratis courtesy of the Pepsi promotion. Based on the estimated 33 cents that Apple takes out of each 99 cent song it sells, that works out at $16.5 million in sales since ITMS opened its doors just under a year ago.

Apple's calculated annual run rate of 130 million songs a year equates to $43.9m of revenue per annum. Napster is expected to announce revenues of $9.1m for its first five months of selling downloads.

Of course, how much of that ends up on Apple's bottom line is another matter. In any case, that figure has to be put alongside the company's annual revenue of $6.2bn (FY2003) selling computers and associate software, services and peripherals. ITMS might be a high profile activity, but it's certainly not high revenue, relatively speaking.

Apple last quoted a download figure three months ago, claiming to have sold 25 million downloads to 15 December 2003. Doubling that figure in three months represents an impressive uptake.

Why compare the figure to Napster's? Only that Napster is the only Apple rival to have released a download total, and that it claims to be the leading Windows-only music download service. Since ITMS is effectively the only Windows and Mac service, that puts Napster as its nearest rival.

Both companies claim to offer the largest collection of songs, each citing their catalogues of "over 500,000" songs to download.

Napster is looking to sub-distribution deals, such as those it's put in place with a number of US universities, to boost its download total. Apple, meanwhile, is undoubtedly expecting big things of its partnership with HP, which saw its first fruits this week. ®

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