Today in Apple history: Apple offers ice water to Windows users in hell

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iTunes
On October 16, Apple announced iTunes was coming to Windows.
Photo: Apple

October 16: Today in Apple history: iTunes Music Store comes to Windows October 16, 2003: Six months after opening the iTunes Music Store for Mac owners, Apple expands the service to cover Windows PCs as well.

Steve Jobs later quips that making iTunes available to Windows owners is akin to “giving a glass of ice water to somebody in hell.”

A tough call for Steve Jobs

Like opening iOS to developers five years later, Jobs’ decision to port iTunes to Windows did not come overnight. In some ways, it’s easy to see what fueled his trepidation. During the bad old days of the 1990s, Apple gradually let its unique selling points get diluted. Meanwhile, Windows went from strength to strength.

Now Apple had, in iTunes and the iPod, a combination of software and hardware that would coax new users into the Apple ecosystem. Allowing either to work with Windows seemed like giving up an advantage.

Jobs correctly pointed out that both iTunes and the iPod helped drive Mac sales. His lieutenants at the time — Phil Schiller, Jon Rubinstein, Jeff Robbin and Tony Fadell — observed that, while this was true, Apple was no longer just about Macs. At one point, Jobs said letting iTunes and the iPod run on PC would happen “over my dead body.”

In the end, Jobs saw the business sense in the decision and backed down — but only after running the numbers and seeing that declining Mac sales could never outweigh the gain from increased iPod sales.

iTunes: ‘The best Windows app ever written’

At first, PC users had to run software made by a company called MusicMatch to use their iPods. However, Jobs insisted that if Apple was going to let its beautiful hardware run on PCs, it must control as much of the experience as possible. That meant that iTunes would need to be ported across as well.

This wasn’t just about writing a new app. Apple also had to renegotiate with music labels to get them to go along with it. However, once they struck deals, Apple began working on iTunes for Windows.

During the software’s October 16 unveiling, Jobs referred to it — with characteristic enthusiasm — as “the best Windows app ever written.”

Do you remember the arrival of iTunes on Windows? Leave your comments below.