Happy birthday iTunes!

By Pat Pilcher

ITunes, it's a love hate thing for many, but regardless of loyalties, be they windows, or IOS, there's no disputing that iTunes has played a pivotal role in the rise and rise of digital music, TV, movies and of course apps.

Having just turned ten, it seems like yesterday (the 28th of April, 2003) that Apple launched the iTunes Music Store, containing a mere 200,000 songs. Back then, the now iconic 3rd generation scroll-wheel iPod was in, and white-on-white ear buds were popping up everywhere.

The launch of iTunes also tapped into a pent-up demand for digital music that didn't involve piracy, paving the way for a raft of other online media stores.

Even though Apple had to negotiate hard with the studios, both Apple and studios were stunned by the sheer success of iTunes, when over a million songs were sold during its first week of trading.

Apple and the recording labels haven't looked back since, and iTunes went on to sell an astonishing 25 billion songs globally, making it largest music store on earth. Since then iTunes has continued to evolve, morphing from a music only download service aimed at iPod owners, through to its modern day multi-media mega store status, selling apps for the iPhone, Apple TV and the Mac.

There's also been controversy, with many a Windows user lamenting its usability while Mac owners smugly sniggered. More recently, Apple came under fire when it was revealed that Kiwis were being charged up to 88c more for per track on iTunes than their US counterparts.

In April 2009 Apple also finally eliminated copy protection on music, introducing a three-tiered pricing structure. Before then a selection of higher-resolution, DRM (digital rights management) free songs branded "iTunes Plus" were available at a premium sticker price.

All songs (by now there was a staggering nine million tracks available) on iTunes became DRM-free, 256Kbps and priced at $1.29, $1.79 or $2.39 depending on how popular the track was.

The most popular song sold in New Zealand on iTunes during its first year of operation was Brook Fraser's Deciphering Me, with the top 10 iTunes New Zealand songs including Opshop, Maybe, Snow Patrol, Chasing Cars, Fergie, Big Girls Don't Cry, MIKA, Grace Kelly, Rihanna, Umbrella, Timbaland, Apologize, The Fray, How to Save a Life, Regina Spektor, Fidelity, Nelly Furtado, Say it Right,, The Way I Are (feat. Keri Hilson & D.O.E.)

No matter how you look at it, the growth of iTunes has been staggering. By January 2007 iTunes song downloads had reached 2 billion tracks. By July, a further 1 billion downloads had happened, taking the 2007 total for iTunes downloads to a whopping 3 billion tracks. In 2008 Apple launched the App Store with a mere 500 apps.

The number of iPhone apps has since swelled to a massive 775,000 apps. Since then ITunes has clocked up a massive 40 billion app sales so far.

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