Print 27 comment(s) - last by MisterChristop.. on Apr 8 at 10:29 PM

The iPod and iTunes giant gets a bit confused about its current market position

Since last February, Apple has constantly proclaimed itself the number 2 music retailer, second only to retail giant Wal-Mart.  Apple had long trailed Best Buy for the third spot, and the February announcement that it had passed Best Buy took on a celebratory note.  Such a position was certainly respectable stated observers, and thanks no doubt, to Apple's rejuvenated iPod sales from its refreshed line.

However, something strange happened when a memo from the NPD group music survey was intercepted by Ars Technica.  The memo read that Apple was really number 1, having passed Wal-Mart and Best Buy.  So which was it?  Apple, well known for its sardonic "Mac and PC guy" ads, certainly did not seem the type of company to purposefully miss a chance to toot its own horn, so to speak.

Well it appears some confusion overtook Apple, as it released a statement saying that it was actually number 1 in January and February, contradicting its own previous report.  Stated Apple last week:

Apple® today announced that the iTunes® Store ( surpassed Wal-Mart to become the number one music retailer in the US, based on the latest data from the NPD Group*(see footnote).

*(footnote) Based on data from market research firm the NPD Group’s MusicWatch survey that captures consumer reported past week unit purchases and counts one CD representing 12 tracks, excluding wireless transactions. The iTunes Store became the largest music retailer in the US based on the amount of music sold during January and February 2008.

Many observers believe that Apple's new lead was thanks in part to heavy holiday sales of iTunes gift cards. 

Apple's announcement is likely an attempt to drum up some excitement to overshadow the recent deal between MySpace and three of the major music labels to release an iTunes competitor.

Why do the announcement and the confusion preceding it matter?  Chiefly, the confusion certainly induces a bit of havoc upon investors and analysts who tend to rely heavily on such announcements to make their decisions on stocks.  Secondly, it indicates that Apple missed a major advertising opportunity to promote its new found dominance, thanks to some snafu.

Despite the humorous nature of the situation, online music is no laughing matter for Apple.  Apple has worked hard to hold onto its 70 percent stake in the MP3 market. And with the number of teens -- the primary music buyers -- not buying a CD rising from 38 percent to 48 percent between 2006 and 2007, all indications are that if you want to succeed in the music business, you are going to have to succeed online.

This is the second embarrassing logistical oversight from Apple in the last month.  At the end of the last month it was revealed that Apple's iTunes software had unintentionally encouraged massive violation of Apple's Safari browser's EULA, possibly millions of times, by encouraging non-Mac hardware users to download the browser.

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By KingofL337 on 4/8/2008 10:05:27 AM , Rating: 4
TNG was the Bomb!

RE: Engage!
By FITCamaro on 4/8/2008 10:22:24 AM , Rating: 1
The question is is that Riker or evil Riker.......

dum dum da dum da dunnnnnnnn.......

RE: Engage!
By therealnickdanger on 4/8/2008 10:26:23 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah, TNG really shot itself in the foot by allowing good Riker to wear a beard. I mean, who's gonna take a shaven nega-verse Riker seriously?

RE: Engage!
By the goat on 4/8/2008 11:13:56 AM , Rating: 3
You guys must not be real Star Trek fans. In Star Trek evil duplicates have a goatee not a full beard. So it is very easy to tell who is who. Also Thomas Riker is not from the evil duplicate parallel universe. He is a clone of the regular Riker from a transporter accident. If he is evil or not is up for debate.

RE: Engage!
By omnicronx on 4/8/2008 11:37:30 AM , Rating: 3
You guys must not be real Star Trek fans.
Obviously you are not either =D. T Riker came back on an episode of DS9, shaved his sideburns for a goate, and tried to steal the defiant from cisco! He ends up in jail, with almost being executed ;) Sounds like evil to me =D.

RE: Engage!
By the goat on 4/8/2008 2:48:57 PM , Rating: 4
Obviously you are not either

Please don't question my credentials as a Treker (or Trekie if you prefer).

Of course I know that episode. Tom Riker stole the Defiant to expose how the Cardassians were secretly breaking a treaty (which they were). Now he is sitting in a Cardassian prison for the rest of his life. Does blowing up a bunch of Cardassian ships to prove a point make him evil? I think there is no clear answer.

RE: Engage!
By omnicronx on 4/8/2008 4:14:58 PM , Rating: 3
In Star Trek evil duplicates have a goatee not a full beard.
Then why did he shave his beard and grow a goatee for the episode =D

RE: Engage!
By Brandon Hill on 4/8/2008 11:53:21 AM , Rating: 4
No doubt. I absolutely LOVED that show as a kid.

Make it so!

RE: Engage!
By Mitch101 on 4/8/2008 3:08:18 PM , Rating: 2
Now if we could get them to drop the ego's and overinflated demands they have for being in a star trek movie.

EGO > Star Trek Movie Pay = Unemployed

Unemployment pays < Star Trek Movie Pay

Too many of them seem to like being unemployed instead of making money from a movie.

More online music?
By VashHT on 4/8/2008 10:07:47 AM , Rating: 3
Hopefully this encourages more music to be sold online, and in better formats. I don't mind downloading my music but I don't want it in the itunes aac format.

RE: More online music?
By Parhel on 4/8/2008 10:33:20 AM , Rating: 5
I know I'm in the minority, but I'm not interested in purchasing music in any format until it is at least CD quality.

Sure, you can't tell the difference on a pair of earbuds, but some of us own nice stereos that we still like to use!

I like to have a large high-quality copy of my music on my hard drive, and downmix it when I copy it to my mp3 player.

Someday, mp3 players will have such high capacities that it won't matter, and everyone will end up repurchasing their music to get it in higher quality, similar to buying the "remastered" version.

RE: More online music?
By Quiescent on 4/8/2008 11:31:26 AM , Rating: 2
See! Poor quality music can promote pirating! You can get higher quality MP3s by NOT buying it.

And I totally agree. I have an Audigy 2 ZS soundcard with MDR-V700 headphones, and I can certainly tell the difference from a 64kbps MP3 and a 192kbps MP3.

And to be honest, I have a Creative Zen Vision:M and have noticed the sound quality to be quite great for being an MP3 player, however, since I've got my Eee, my Zen is collecting dust.

RE: More online music?
By omnicronx on 4/8/2008 11:51:34 AM , Rating: 2
And I totally agree. I have an Audigy 2 ZS soundcard with MDR-V700 headphones, and I can certainly tell the difference from a 64kbps MP3 and a 192kbps MP3.
You download 64kbps mp3s? 128CBR+ has been the standard for the ripping scene for over 15 years.

I do agree with you though, 128kpbs mp3s will just not suffice .I used to be involved in the scene, and 192cbr has been the standard since at least 99, and 192vbr+ has been since 01-02. This was done for a reason, 192vbr is probably the best mix between sound quality and file size. Anything over 256vbr and the ceiling of the way mp3s are encoded is hit.

Apple has no reason that they're mp3s are not all at least 192vbr, and its the main reason I have never touched itunes, even though I like supporting my favorite artists. I would rather buy the CD and rip the tracks myself.

RE: More online music?
By drebo on 4/8/2008 12:27:09 PM , Rating: 2

It's not music if it isn't raw PCM.

RE: More online music?
By omnicronx on 4/8/2008 1:24:54 PM , Rating: 2
It's not music if it isn't raw PCM.
Ya sure, if you are a dog ;) Most compression techniques today make use of the fact we can not hear certain frequencies present on a raw PCM track. On average most humans can only hear between the ranges of 20 Hz and 20 kHz. In fact most people do not even have the audio equipment to achieve these frequencies (computer speakers and low end consumer audio components come to mind). VBR (variable bit rate) encoding schemes take advantage of this even more, as it is able to change the bit rate when not all of the frequency spectrum is in use (for example when there is no sound).

Although the trained ear can hear the difference between a VBR 256 mp3 and a 44khz PCM track(CD), its nothing like the difference between CD and an SACD track. If you want perfection 192khz 2 channel sound is the best you can possibly get ;)

RE: More online music?
By MisterChristopher on 4/8/2008 10:29:23 PM , Rating: 2
You guys are both idiots. Any form of digital representation of an analog audio stream is just that. A digital representation. It will never accurately represent the infinite variations in pressure that an analog sound field carries. Both tape and records do a better job than any of the digital methods including DSD, but even they are not even close to perfect.

DSD by the way is not a 192Khz 2 channel signal. DSD uses 1 bit at a sample rate of 2.88 Mhz or multiples. The one bit is used to represent a positive or negative voltage change relative to your previous voltage level. Check out link for more info.

DSD is definatly the closest digital representation of an analog sound stream, but it still is just a representation.

To those who state that we cannot percieve the impact in an average listening experience.... you obviously have no concept of how inaudible frequencies in the form of harmonics affect what you actually can hear. Also, most percieved locational cues are due to frequencies that you cannot actually "hear".

Both locational cues and harmonics are extremely important to any music listening experience, and both of these things make a huge difference to the quality of your listening experience even on cheap speakers (even ibud).

To those of you that might say they average listener doesn't care; Go away. Most average listeners do not care only because they have never been exposed to someone who has the knowledge and tact to show them why it matters. Instead of making excuses for them, educate them by showing them the difference.

PCM sucks.

apple itunes may be number 1
By tastyratz on 4/8/2008 10:34:16 AM , Rating: 4
but the music from it is #2 compared to far better services like amazon which offer only drm free high quality mp3 downloads for their music.

I tunes is really a plague of a program, I installed it just the other week to try its hand at media management but it felt like a child's toy with little to no media management functionality. starting with Media Monkey I couldn't believe people raved so much over I tunes. I guess the "single digit IQ" compatible interface trumps function.

It installed a slew of apple software I never was aware of on the install which conveniently didn't uninstall when I pulled I tunes 8 minutes later. I found myself left with I pod helper windows services and quicktime which I never requested nor were notified as part of the install. At least with the Safari blunder they had a check box notifying you of their intentions. I know now quicktime is required for I tunes but a grayed out check box could have been showed to express that.

RE: apple itunes may be number 1
By oab on 4/8/2008 10:54:45 AM , Rating: 2
Uhhh.... iTunes installs iTunes, and Quicktime, it installs Quicktime because that's the music playing engine iTunes uses. The other two services that get added are ones to detect when an iPod is plugged in and start iTunes so that you can sync it (that behaviour can be turned off)

Despite the lack of various sorting abilities that media monkey might have, who uses them? If you want to find something, use the search bubble for instant results.

Despite that the iTunes music store has DRM on it, even though Amazon sells DRM free MP3 files, I still won't buy from either service because: I want the ability to TRUE cd-quality sound, not just "I'm using laptop speakers, I can't tell the difference" quality.

By omnicronx on 4/8/2008 11:03:49 AM , Rating: 2
Uhhh.... iTunes installs iTunes, and Quicktime, it installs Quicktime because that's the music playing engine iTunes uses. The other two services that get added are ones to detect when an iPod is plugged in and start iTunes so that you can sync it (that behaviour can be turned off)
I uninstalled itunes the day I got my laptop, and yet ituneshelper.exe is still a running process. When I uninstall a program, I expect it to uninstall all services pertaining to the program. It's not like it was a seperate entity that I clicked on during the install. The more crap Apple bundles with their software, the less appealing it becomes. (even for the village idiot)

By omnicronx on 4/8/2008 11:10:34 AM , Rating: 2
I want the ability to TRUE cd-quality sound, not just "I'm using laptop speakers, I can't tell the difference" quality.
I am with you, but right now pretty much all you can do is go buy the CD, as you wont be seeing any PCM wav tracks anytime soon, and the best lossless encoders (FLAC etc) can compress only it about 2x.

256VBR mp3 is very close to CD quality, anything more is just overkill (for the mp3 algorithm at least). I would maybe consider buying mp3s online if the mp3's had a sufficient bitrate.

p.s you maybe in for a change though, NIN just recently gave the choice of downloading in mp3 or flac if you paid 5 dollars for their new CD.

RE: apple itunes may be number 1
By kmmatney on 4/8/2008 1:49:21 PM , Rating: 2
I hated Itunes at first, but after using it a bit I think its the best program out there for my media management. It could have a few more expert options, but in all honesty it has met all my needs. I've never bought any music, but as music maanger its great. You need to use it more than 8 minutes...

Wonder which it is...
By killerroach on 4/8/2008 10:09:55 AM , Rating: 4 it a sign of the explosive growth of iTunes, or is it a sign of the manifest implosion of the retail music market?

I'd say it's a bit of both, but more the latter than the former.

RE: Wonder which it is...
By jhinoz on 4/8/2008 10:41:10 AM , Rating: 2
It's definately a sign that you should get your facts straight before issuing media releases. Would have been a different story if they were number 2 and said they were number 1.

I have to go...
By Capsaicin on 4/8/2008 10:15:45 AM , Rating: 2
Number One.

RE: I have to go...
By tmouse on 4/8/2008 10:30:10 AM , Rating: 4
They will always be "number two" to some people ; )

dun dunnn duuunnnnnnnnnnnn
By root mean sq on 4/8/2008 12:43:20 PM , Rating: 2
the phaaaaaatom of the apple is here, inside my mind

Number 1
By odessit740 on 4/8/2008 5:15:55 PM , Rating: 2
Apple is number 1 in the number 2 business.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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