What is 'Apple iTunes (AAPL)'

Apple iTunes is software used to store, manage and play multimedia content on Apple devices, including iPhones and iPads, as well as desktop and laptop Apple computers.


Apple iTunes is the native multimedia management software included on Apple computing products. While the software began simply as a digital music player, iTunes has evolved into a suite of multimedia tools that allows users to share, stream, purchase and play multimedia content, as well as manage mobile devices and multimedia libraries.

In an address at the MacWorld Expo in 2001, Apple founder Steve Jobs introduced iTunes to the public with a speech about the future of music. At the time, iTunes was a simple digital music player with some added functionality, including the ability to burn music CDs.

The next year, Apple debuted the iPod, which paired with iTunes and served to manifest many of Jobs’ prophecies about future of digital music.

In the subsequent years, iTunes has added and subtracted many iTunes features, building the software into a powerful suite that manages multimedia content on Apple products, including music and video files, podcasts, audiobooks, television programs, and streaming audio and video.

The Impact of the iTunes Store

Apple launched the iTunes Store in 2003, adding a multimedia e-commerce component to the iTunes software. As of 2018, the iTunes store is the largest seller of digital music in the U.S., having sold tens of billions of songs, videos and apps.

Apple reached licensing agreements with many of the major music labels, including BMG, EMI, Sony, Warner, and Universal Music Group upon the launch of iTunes Store, and initially the store offered approximately 200,000 music tracks for sale. In its first year, prior to the launch of the iPod, iTunes sold 70 million songs.

When iTunes added the ability to play video content in 2005, the iTunes Store sold more than one million music videos in a single month. In 2007, iTunes Store became the most popular source for purchasing and downloading movies, with some 2 million movies sold.  The iTunes Store passed 35 billion songs sold in May 2014.

In 2006 the iTunes Store boasted an 88 percent market share in digital music downloads, and while Apple’s market share has slipped in recent years as competitors such as Amazon and Comcast strengthen their offerings, the iTunes Store remains one of the most popular media outlets around the world.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) was an enormous concern in the early days of digital music, as music companies were concerned with filesharing and piracy. Initially, the iTunes Store sold music embedded with Apple’s proprietary DRM software, ensuring that unauthorized users were unable to play content purchased through iTunes. Over the years, as concerns were mitigated and DRM fell into disfavor, Apple began to shift its practice and currently, in most countries, iTunes sells content that is DRM-free.

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