Wait-- didn't Apple also have something to do with digital music, or something like that? Man, we'll say one thing about this whole MacIntel brouhaha: it's certainly put the spotlight back on the Mac, hasn't it? For ages everything we ever heard about Apple was iPod this, iTunes that, yadda yadda FairPlay; people almost forgot that Apple made Macs, too. But we sure remember now, boy howdy, and all it took was Apple dropping the chip architecture it's been praising to the skies for over a decade and jumping into bed with the very manufacturer whose processors it represented with snails in TV ads. Go figure.
Anyway, at least Steve saw fit to remind us that the music thing is still going strong; during the Stevenote he mentioned that, as summarized by MacMinute, the iTunes Music Store has now sold a whopping 430 million songs, and its market share last month was still way up at the 82 percent mark. Meanwhile, despite recent reports of iPod sales finally slowing down, Apple had still sold over 16 million units as of the end of last quarter, at which time iPods enjoyed a 76 percent market share among all players sold-- including flash-based models. Evidently releasing the iPod shuffle wasn't a mistake after all.
And the good news keeps on coming. Remember back when Steve used to say that the iTMS isn't really competing with other legal download services (and it doesn't look like much of a competition, given the market share numbers), but rather with illegal free MP3 trading via P2P networks? Well, faithful viewer Shane Burgess alerted us to a CNET article which reports that, incredibly, iTunes is indeed holding its own against the file-sharing networks: according to market research firm NPD Group, while WinMX was the most popular method of downloading music last March, iTunes tied for second place with LimeWire, leading NPD to announce that "iTunes is more popular than nearly any P2P service" and that Apple has "created a compelling and economically viable alternative to illegal file sharing."
Now, before you get too excited, it's important to note that these results are based on the number of households who used each of the services to download at least one song; it doesn't take into account the total number of songs downloaded. Which is actually pretty fair, when you think about it, because anyone who uses a P2P service to download one free song illegally probably will have no qualms about downloading a hundred more, whereas people who use iTunes actually pay for their music and are limited by how deep into debt they can reasonably slide. Odds are, illegally-downloaded songs still dwarf the number of ones purchased via iTunes, and we doubt that's going to change anytime soon; still, we're stunned and impressed that, according to NPD, iTunes was used to download music in more households than KaZaA was; a year ago we'd never have thought it possible.
People paying to download music? What's next, pedestrians only crossing in crosswalks? Shoppers getting into express checkout lanes with fewer than ten items? People refraining from cat flinging? The mind reels.