2003: “The Year of Digital Music”


At Macworld Expo in January of 2003, Steve Jobs launched the 12-inch and 17-inch PowerBooks, declaring the year to be “The Year of the Notebook.”  However, 2003 would evolve into what could easily be called “The Year of Digital Music.”

Steve Jobs’ Macworld Expo keynote presentation brought several interesting iPod statistics.  Apple had sold 600,000 iPods since their debut on December 12th, 2001 (or 1 iPod per minute).  In 2003, the average rate of iPod sale increased to 1.79 iPods per minute, as the iPod held its market share ground in the face of the launch of several iPod competitors.

The same Expo brought iTunes 3 to Mac users, offering greater integration with the rest of Apple’s iLife suite of applications.

April proved to be an incredible month for Apple.  A special “Music Event” brought the introduction of the third-generation iPod, iTunes 4.0, and the revolutionary iTunes Music Store.  The new iPod was sold in 10, 15, and 30GB sizes and had a refined, thinner design, new software features, and touch-sensitive buttons.  iTunes 4 brought, among other things, the capability to stream one’s library over a local-area-network using zero-configuration Rendezvous technology.  The new Music Store claimed to be the first online store to truly satisfy the user’s desire for flexibility and the recording industry’s desire for security.  Apple launched the Music Store with 200,000 songs, strikingly liberal song usage policies, and a promise for Windows-compatible Music Store access by the end of the year.

By mid-June, the Music Store had sold its 5-millionth song and Apple had sold their 1 millionth iPod.

In September, Apple surprised the iPod community with a “Music Event,” delivering on their iTunes Music Store for Windows promise 3 months early.  Apple chose to offer the Music Store to Windows users as a full-fledged port of iTunes for Macintosh.  iTunes 4.1 offered Windows users the exact same jukebox features and look-and-feel as it did Mac users.  At the same event, Apple announced a partnership with Belkin in providing two new accessories for the iPod—a memory card reader and a voice recorder.  They also announced a partnership with Pepsi, in which 100 million songs are to be given away beginning February 1st, 2004.  Apple later introduced 20GB and 40GB size iPods, discontinuing the 15GB and 30GB models.

For the second half of 2003, RIAA litigation against individual illegal music swappers had a significant impact on P2P traffic.  The RIAA lost their rights to subpoena user information from ISPs in mid-December, but the enormous media hype they received in the months prior appears to have had a lasting effect.

The close of 2003 saw a bit of a controversy over the battery longevity of the iPod, sparked by a video in which two brothers deface many iPod posters with the text “iPod’s unreplaceable battery lasts only 18 months.”  Several days before the video appeared on the internet, Apple had announced their $99 battery replacement service and their $59 two-year AppleCare warranty plan.  Later, evidence of a possible class action lawsuit concerning the matter appeared.

The iTunes Music Store has held its crown as the most widely used online music store, trumping BuyMusic, Rhapsody, WalMart, Napster 2.0, and others by large margins.

December has been a month of honor for Apple and the iTunes Music Store.  Apple has received awards from TIME magazine, Forbes magazine, Popular Science, and several other entities for its work in bringing users and the RIAA peacefully together.  The iPod has been selling out in stores everywhere, and was perhaps the holiday season’s hottest gift.

Indeed, 2003 was an amazing year for Apple, the iPod, and digital music.  And yet, 2004 could be even better… only time will tell!

Highlights from 2003







iPod, You Pod, We All iPod
by Dennis Lloyd

iLounge, like the iPod, has had a tremendous year of success since its debut in 2001. In the early months, site traffic started at a meager 50K impressions per month, and in recent months iLounge brings in anywhere from 3.5 � 4 million impressions per month. Our forums boast over 12,000 members from around the world, and the iPods Around the World Gallery has over 1700 photos from over 60 countries.

Thanks to ALL the iLoungers, contributors, editors, reviewers, moderators and admins for making iLounge what it is today. We couldn’t have done it without you. We look forward to 2004 and all its surprises – Bluetooth? Mini-iPods? Video iPods? …only time will tell.

Photo of author

Jerrod H.

Jerrod was a contributing editor at iLounge. He mostly wrote articles about iTunes and iPod accessories. He was known for his in-depth knowledge of both topics and was often able to provide readers with unique insights into the world of Apple products.