Apple iTunes tops 150m downloads

Can it make 200m by year-end?

Some 150m songs have been downloaded from Apple's iTunes Music Store, the Mac maker has announced.

And, just in time for the upcoming festive season, the company said it was now selling its gift certificates through BestBuy stores across North America. The certificates are already available at Target stores and Apple's own retail outlets.

The BestBuy deal is something of a snub for rival online music company Napster, which in June 2004 paid the retail chain $10m to promote its download service. The deal was never an exclusive, and BestBuy continued to sell iPods. Now it's effectively reselling iTunes songs.

But back to the 150m total. Apple finally crossed the 100m mark in July. So it's taken roughly three months to increase that figure by 50 per cent, a sure sign that iPod sales are pulling punters to the online store. Apple sold over two million more iPods in the three months to the end of September.

The figures are also a sign that RealNetworks' lure of cheaper songs and their translation into an iPod-compatible form didn't achieve much from a competitive standpoint. Real's 49c song offer lasted three weeks, and yielded 3m downloads - 1m a week. Conservative calculations put Apple's average weekly total during the period at over 3.8m a week.

We'd like to compare other services' performance, but none have made their figures public.

Apple this week said its weekly average has risen to over 4m songs, helped no doubt by HP's arrival as an iPod and iTunes reseller, though that will inevitably limit the Mac maker's revenues. At this rate it won't make the 200m mark in the 11 remaining weeks of 2004, but Christmas iPod and gift certificate sales should push up the figures post-25 December, and there'll be plenty more people buying iPods and songs for themselves in the meantime. ®

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