In his article “Thoughts on Music” Steve Jobs argues that people are not really locked into the iPod.
Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.
Its hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.
Yes, hard to believe, until you realize that Steve is using misleading statistics. There may be 90 million iPods sold, but not all of them are currently in use. Furthermore, it’s the number of iTunes Store customers and average sales per customer that’s relevant, and Apple has never disclosed these figures.
Many iPod owners have never bought anything from the iTunes Store. Some have bought hundreds of songs. Some have bought thousands. At the 2004 Macworld Expo, Steve revealed that one customer had bought $29,500 worth of music.
If you’ve only bought 10 songs, the lock-in is obviously not very strong. However, if you’ve bought 100 songs ($99), 10 TV-shows ($19.90) and 5 movies ($49.95), you’ll think twice about upgrading to a non-Apple portable player or set-top box. In effect, it’s the customers who would be the most valuable to an Apple competitor that get locked in. The kind of customers who would spend $300 on a set-top box.