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Monday, June 13, 2011
There are 225 million iTunes account holders. 25 million joined in the three months. As the iTunes store has been operating since April 2003 it’s possible to step back and look at its history and measure the rate of growth relative to other ecosystems.
The following chart shows various platforms/ecosystems in terms of adoption. In the case of phone operating systems and consoles, the cumulative units sold is shown. The scale is 10 years by 1 billion users with users measured on a logarithmic scale.
What can be easily observed is that iTunes continues to grow on a logarithmic scale even at its advanced age of 7 years. This cannot be said for console-based gaming systems or for some alternative mobile phone platforms (e.g. Windows Mobile or Symbian).
The reason for this prosperity at an advanced age may be due to the fact that iTunes has survived the transition from one device (the iPod) to a device platform (iOS). It also was able to embrace multiple media from music, to movies to TV and apps. iTunes turned out to be far more flexible and resilient given what was technologically foreseeable at its birth.
Looking to the future, is it possible that iTunes could grow in parallel with iOS toward the 1 billion user limit that the slope in the chart implies? Much will depend on gaining users who are unlikely to have credit cards and live in emerging markets. If there is one obstacle to the iEmpire it’s the addressability of markets which lack consumer credit infrastructure. I suspect, however, that these problems are not unsurmountable given that telecom infrastructure leapfrogged credit infrastructure growth with nary a ripple. Apple could certainly offer that service directly to the consumer.