The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

As previewed earlier this week, iTunes for Windows debuted today. As much as this is being trumpeted as a big development in the online music business, the current approach, by Apple and other players, is to use digital music storefronts as only a part of an overall hardware/software platform strategy.

My supplemental comments to my previous post noted that the iPod is the key driver for Apple's iTunes expansion to Windows. In a way, that music player symbolizes the most tangible, "real" part of the music biz for Apple. iPod sales are becoming a major revenue source for Apple, and online music selling is intended to be the way to make more money from the devices. And the key is to do that beyond the traditional Apple/Mac market:

With the Windows store, as well as partnerships with America Online and PepsiCo, [Apple Senior Vice President Phil] Schiller said, Apple is hoping to reach a larger audience beyond the Mac enthusiasts who tend to follow Apple's moves closely.

I think the AOL connection can be a huge boon for Apple. As much as AOL is dismissed these days--and no doubt, its days as a leading ISP are likely numbered--in the here and now, it still represents a 30-odd million subscriber base. Many of those people might not venture into online music unless it was presented to them in a familiar package, e.g through AOL's services. The potential for tapping that market is major, and Apple made a great move there. (I'm wondering if AOL's sometime-contentious relationship with Microsoft helped warm it up to a deal with Apple...)

In any case, I'd like to experience the Windows iTunes myself. I'm a bit leery now, though. According to the minimum Windows system requirements for iTunes, my machine might struggle a bit. I've got a three-year-old 400 MHz box, with 160 MB RAM. I have to consider if I want to deal with any potential headaches. My system is already running a bit sluggish lately. We'll see. It could be the right excuse to buy a new computer.