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iTunes rules. And don't forget it

June 20, 2008 |  5:01 pm
The movie Semi-Pro is one of the movies on sale at iTunes

Apple is very careful when it talks. And this week, it crowed about two things: 1. The iTunes store has sold 5 billion songs. 2. Every day, people go to iTunes to either buy or rent 50,000 movies, such as "Semi-Pro" (pictured above in a scene that looks remarkably like the audience during a Steve Jobs keynote). Both were milestones.

Debate raged in the blogs about whether iTunes' music sales were accelerating, as Fortune claimed, or slowing, as Silicon Alley Insider argued. They also wondered whether iTunes, now 5 years old, was still the cat's pajamas.

One boast in Apple's press release jumped out: "The iTunes Store is the world's most popular online music, TV and movie store." It is true that iTunes recently became the No. 1 seller of music in the U.S., according to the NPD Group. But it's early for iTunes to claim to be the top TV and movie store too, when the market for renting or buying video is in its infant stages, Mashable argued.

Still, it's a bold statement, one that will be examined and measured. NewTeevee does the quick math and says that Apple's projected 18 million movies this year is just a fraction of the industry's 215 million paid downloads projected by a research group. Who is going to sell or rent the remaining 197 million?

Apple is in an odd position when it comes to the media business. The company has lit the path for how entertainment can work on the Internet. Still, some TV and movie studios have tried to strengthen iTunes' competitors such as Amazon because of disputes with Apple over pricing. It seems to me that Apple's announcement was designed to remind everyone: iTunes rules.

Nah, said two entertainment executives I spoke with. If Apple chief Steve Jobs wanted to be like Tony Soprano and remind everyone that he owned North Jersey, they said, he would have used the milestones to talk about pricing (milk and gas have gone up but not singles on iTunes!). They suggested that maybe Jobs just wanted to give himself a pat on the back after getting beaten up a bit about the new iPhone 3G last week.

-- Michelle Quinn

Image courtesy of New Line Cinema

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