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If paid downloads and other commercial digital-distribution models work, you're in the software business, sunshine. If not, you're out of business.
WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES, A STORE FOR WINDOWS OPENS
Some Thoughts on Download Sales, Music as Software and Your Sorry Ass
Perhaps the biggest news about Apple's iTunes Store for Windows is that there isn't much news. The download emporium uses the same easy, fun interface that earned raves for the Mac-only version. The difference is that it's now available to the overwhelming majority of consumers.

The PC version of the iTunes software was reportedly downloaded over a million times—and a million songs sold to Windows users—in the first three-and-a-half days following its 10/17 launch (see story, 10/21). It took a week for the Mac version to reach that landmark, but we're talking about roughly 97% of personal computer users now, rather than 3%.

Will this lead to substantial revenues in the near term and the development of a "robust" new digital-music economy, as some predict? Well, that depends.

Apple's been under fire lately for using the iTunes store as mere bait to sell its iPod portable player. Therefore, the argument goes, the music industry gets paid a little dough for content that drives consumers to the iPod but sees none of the massive income generated by the device.

What's more, some observers cavil, the newest line of iPods have so much memory capacity that they're not designed primarily to hold paid downloads, but cater instead to songs ripped from CD or downloaded from P2P services.

Perhaps this is true. But if paid downloads and other commercial digital-distribution models work, you're in the software business, sunshine. If not, you're out of business.

Isn't it conceivable that the biz can, in the medium-to-long term, set itself as the content arm of a larger technology play? It's helpful to remember that a lot of content providers do not transact directly with the public but still make some serious ducats. The production companies that make programming for commercial TV, for example.

But all of these ruminations are essentially moot unless iTunes is a strong consumer experience-and it most definitely is.

I'm constantly struck, in cruising the site for tracks, by the ways in which the avid music fan is sent ping-ponging from one page to another, finding more and more songs to grab. How did I get from Coldplay to a beloved Pat Benatar album track from my college years? Don't ask. But explore for yourself.

It's also worth pointing out that Apple now provides gift certificates for downloads and even the possibility of setting up a music "allowance."

The latter is particularly interesting, as it represents a substitute for the practice of file-swapping over which some parental control can be exercised. What’s more, the spending of this allowance could be an opportunity for parents and kids to bond over music rather than fight over it.

But I digress. The real point here isn’t about Apple especially, and it isn’t about the iPod particularly. But you hotshot music-business folks who’ve spent the last few years griping about the Internet no longer have any excuses.

Get yourself a portable player, start buying tracks and spend some time rediscovering what it means to be a music consumer.

You don’t expect to get your music for free, do you?

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