iTunes Gaining as Streaming Media Player

Recent data from Nielsen/NetRatings and compiled by the site Web Site Optimization suggests Apple’s iTunes media player is rapidly gaining ground as a preferred streaming media player, and users listen to streaming media via iTunes far longer than any other application.

According to the data, use of iTunes as a streaming media player has already surpassed Apple’s QuickTime player application, and is on target to eclipse RealNetworks’ RealPlayer by mid-2006 with just under 30 million unique users. That would make it the number two streaming media player, although Microsoft’s Windows Media Player would still hold a commanding lead with about 80 million unique users.

Observers have noted that while Windows Media Player continues to see linear growth in its user base, iTunes’ user base seems to be growing geometrically.

Perhaps more significant to developers of streaming content, iTunes users tend to access streaming content for far longer periods of time than users of any other media player: on average, iTunes is used over twice as long as real Player (111 minutes per person compared to 46.4 minutes per person). RealPlayer users have also shown an increased use of streaming media, with the 46.4 minute figure representing an increase from 33.4 minutes the year before. No other media players registered any increases in the amount of time users spent accessing streaming media.

The popularity of iTunes as a streaming media player is undoubtedly related to the burgeoning popularity of podcasts; Apple was the first major player to jump on the podcast bandwagon, integrating a podcast directory into its iTunes Music Store and building podcast subscription features into the iTunes player.