Today in Apple history: iTunes sales hit astonishing new heights


iTunes coming to Windows proved a smart move for Apple.
Photo: Apple

November 6: Today in Apple history: After porting iTunes to Windows, iTunes sales hit 1.5 million downloads in one week November 6, 2003: After porting iTunes to Windows, Apple sets a new record for digital music sales: a massive 1.5 million downloads in one week.

Bringing iTunes to PC users opens up a new, lucrative market for Apple. The record-breaking sales clock in at five times more than the 300,000 downloads Napster (remember it?) achieved in its debut week. And 1.5 million is double the 600,000 iTunes downloads per week Apple reported selling to Mac users prior to the Windows release.

The battle to bring iTunes to Windows

The iTunes Music Store arrived on Windows six months after launching on Mac. Going cross-platform propelled the growth of a revolutionary service that would ultimately remake the music industry.

Later on, Steve Jobs quipped that giving Windows users access to such a beautiful Mac app was a bit like “giving a glass of ice water to somebody in hell.”

One reason for the delay? Jobs’ reluctance to end the exclusivity of iTunes. He told his lieutenants at the time — Phil Schiller, Jon Rubinstein, Jeff Robbin and Tony Fadell — that both iTunes and the iPod helped drive Mac sales. The other execs countered this argument by pointing out that declining Mac sales could never outweigh the gain from increased iPod sales. They eventually convinced Jobs.

As a result of this clash of ideas, the first week of iTunes on Windows likely proved a bit tense for Apple’s top brass. In the end, however, it marked a major milestone in the continued success of iTunes.

Major growth for iTunes

Apple’s music service was growing at an astonishing rate. By August the next year, the iTunes Music Store catalog contained 1 million songs in the United States, a first for an online music service. And it racked up more than 100 million song downloads.

Do you remember the first song you ever downloaded on iTunes? Let us know in the comments below.