10 Years After – iTunes Then and Now – The Only Game in Town

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Steve Jobs introduced iTunes ten years ago this week, on January 10, 2001 at the MacWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, where he proclaimed a belief in the “revolution” of “digital music on computers.”

At the time, Macs still ran on OS 9 and iTunes was all about “ripping audio CDs onto your computer disk;” tens of billions of dollars in digital music sales were yet a glimmer in Jobs’ eye.

At the time, iTunes launched as a competitor to existing products from companies such as Real Networks and Microsoft, and Jobs admitted at MacWorld that his company was “late to the game.”

iTunes, of course, quickly became the only game in town, as Apple soon launched OS X and seamlessly integrated its music software with iPod, the line of portable music players that “changed everything” and helped Apple become the tech industry powerhouse it is today.

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Ten years later, the iTunes UI looks surprisingly consistent with its forbear, while obviously supporting far more functionality than the ability to compress audio, create playlists and burn cds that were the hallmarks of iTunes 1.0.

Today iTunes software is the digital heart of not only the desktop’s media universe but also the crossroads and transfer point for all things mobile in Apple’s hardware lineup, from iPods to iPhones to iPads.

As a result, the venerable beast is often denigrated as a CPU and memory hog and some complain it has become Apple’s “weakest link.”

Numbers don’t lie, however, and iTunes has those on its side.

Ten years after, iTunes still owns 66% of the annual market for digital downloads, with its closest competitor, Amazon’s MP3 Store, clinging to just 13%. On a week-to-week basis, 90% of all digital music sales are rung up through iTunes.

Here’s Steve Jobs introducing iTunes to the world ten years ago: