Is Apple's iTunes really the 'number one music retailer?'

Some two-and-a-half months after its first declaration, Apple on Friday once again declared itself the "number one music retailer in the US," this time also proclaiming Apple's iTunes "the world's most popular online movie store."

In a press release dated last April 3, Apple claimed to have surpassed Wal-Mart in terms of tunes sold to consumers, referring to data from the NPD Group's MusicWatch survey for January and February 2008 to support that contention.

At the time, Apple said iTunes had sold over four billion songs over the past five years from a music catalog which had reached a volume of six million songs, and that Apple had surpassed Wal-Mart as the "number one music retailer" in the country.

Then on Friday, June 19, Apple sent out another press release, again using NPD's statistics for the January-February time frame to characterize iTunes as the "number one music retailer in the US." In this second statement, however, Apple's tally of tunes sold increased by one billion songs to five billion, while the size of its music catalog grew to 8 million tunes.

Apple also maintained on June 19 that iTunes customers are now renting and buying more than 50,000 movies per day.

In both statements, Apple said that its claims as "number one music retailer in the US" are derived from NPD data about "the amount of music sold during January and February 2008."

If iTunes has indeed sold another 1 billion tunes to consumers over the past 75 days or so, the online music store must have averaged around 16 million song downloads per day.

Apple's numbers around iTunes have shown some discrepancies in the past, however. In August of 2007, Apple reportedly said it had five million songs in its online catalog. By late April of this year, the company had raised this number to 10 million, before bringing it down again from that level.

Apple spokespersons were not immediately available for further comment.

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