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Apple's online iTunes Music Store (ITMS) has sold more than 400m downloads.

Tucked away in yesterday's press statement announcing new Nordic local ITMS operations, ITMS chief Eddy Cue said the company is now selling more than 500m songs a year. It passed the 350m mark last month.

Since ITMS hasn't sold that amount yet, that may seem a rich claim. However, The Register's own forecast had ITMS passing 400m late this month or early next, so the music store's sales are running slightly ahead of our calculations.

We reckon it will pass the 500m mark in June, and sell its billionth song in the November or December. If it does, it will indeed have sold Cue's "half a billion songs" this year. In fact, it will have sold something like 870m songs in calendar 2005 alone. We expect it to pass 2bn in April 2006.

Yesterday's addition of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland, takes ITMS' country tally to 19 nations - covering more than 70 per cent of the world's music-buying population, according to Apple. If it can get its Australian and Japanese stores up and running this year - ITMS Australia was on the verge of launching two weeks ago, some reports say - there's no reason why it can't meet that target.

Apple's success reveals that hardware is driving punters to online music stores, not the other way round. Folk are buying iPods, and then going looking for music to put on it - they're not choosing an online store then buying a player to fit. That's why it's proving harder for rival stores to emulate the success of ITMS.

But we shouldn't ignore the role if Apple's iTunes jukebox software, which, if Register readers are anything to go by, has brought Apple a whole heap on ITMS customers who buy songs to play on personal computers rather than portable players. iTunes, updated yesterday to version 4.8, remains one of the better - if not the best - jukebox apps out there, and is creating ITMS customers as a result. ®

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Apple iTunes sales tally passes 350 million

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