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iTunes popularity to surpass RealPlayer by mid-year

Apple's iTunes is gaining new users five times faster than its closest competitor and will surpass RealPlayer in terms of popularity by mid-year, according to market research data released this week.

Website Optimization, a web performance and Internet marketing firm, said iTunes grew by 47.5 percent over the past year, while the other streaming media players mustered only single-digit growth.

Over the same time period, RealPlayer users grew by 9.1 percent, QuickTime by 8.7 percent, and Windows Media Player grew by 2.0 percent.

The firm, which extrapolated data provided by Nielsen/NetRatings in reaching its conclusions, added that iTunes should pass RealPlayer in unique users by the second quarter of 2007.

At the same time, broadband penetration in US homes has reportedly grown to 79.03 percent, up 0.62 percentage points since December. At current growth rates US broadband penetration should break 80 percent among active Internet users in March.

Meanwhile, 93.3 percent of US workers now have access to a broadband connection at their jobs, Website Optimization said, up 1.01 percentage points from the 92.29 percent share in December.

iTunes Growth Rate

The firm's data has iTunes' user base at 27 million active users, compared to Real's 31 million and Windows Media Player's 72 million. Active QuickTime users are reported at just shy of 14 million.