The number-crunchers at Apple aren't counting just profits these days. Less than two months after it announced three billion applications had been downloaded from its App Store, the computer giant boasted Thursday that its iTunes Store has sold its 10 billionth song.
The lucky music fan who won Apple's download contest -- which for months enticed iTunes users with a $10,000 gift card -- was identified as Louie Sulcer, who, perhaps appropriately, comes from a place called Woodstock (albeit in Virginia, not New York.) Apple didn't release his age or occupation.
The 10 billionth song was Guess Things Happen That Way by the late Johnny Cash. Apple boasts an inventory of more than 12 million songs, 55,000 TV episodes, and 8,500 movies, including more than 2,500 in high definition.
"We're grateful to all of our customers for helping us reach this amazing milestone," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of Internet services. "We're proud that iTunes has become the number-one music retailer in the world, and selling 10 billion songs is truly staggering."
Not Even Close
iTunes was launched in 2001 and is now in its ninth software version, which debuted in September. Apple announced the five billion download mark in 2008, and launched the iTunes Countdown to 10 Billion Songs last month.
"The 10 billion number is important, as it emphasizes that no one else is even close to these levels," said Michael Gartenberg, a partner at Altimeter Group, a research and advisory firm based in California.
Apple spokesperson Jason Roth said there are 125 million iTunes accounts worldwide, but he didn't have data on the number of TV shows or movies downloaded.
Last March, Apple raised the price of some of the most popular music choices from 99 cents to $1.29, while allowing some music vendors to charge lower prices. Most competitors, such as Amazon MP3, still charge 99 cents.
Driving the Apple Engine
Like the App Store, iTunes is an integral part of Apple's business model, offering easy-to-access content that drives the sale of its hardware. As of January, the company had sold 250 million iPods worldwide, Roth said.
And with the much-ballyhooed iPad tablet computer set to ship this spring, both the App Store and iTunes will be keys to Apple's success in setting it apart from netbooks and e-readers.
"Would iPod and iPhone have enjoyed their levels of success if iTunes, the company's media commerce store, didn't exist? Probably not," said Jeff Orr, a mobile-devices analyst at ABI Research.
"Similarly, iPad would not be coming out if the company was unable to parlay iTunes into a hub for recurring revenues from information and entertainment media. More important than the number of hardware platforms with Apple logos is the revenue generated by the company for content and services. The content and user experience sell the brand; the hardware is merely a platform to deliver it."