Apple Computer's iTunes music player is steadily gaining on RealNetworks's RealPlayer in number of users, a market research firm said Friday.
While the number of RealPlayer users has remained about the same for the last three years, iTunes's user base has more than tripled from 2005 to 2006, Nielsen/NetRatings said.
In January of this year, RealPlayer had 28.7 million users, compared with 28.2 million in the same month in 2005, the research firm said. In January 2004, RealPlayer had 28.6 million users.
ITunes's user base, on the other hand, soared to 18.6 million users in January from 5.4 million a year ago, helped no doubt by the popularity of Apple's iPod portable media device, which commands two thirds of the market. If the rate of growth continues this year, then iTunes, which debuted in April 2003, would surpass RealPlayer this year.
ITunes surpassed Apple's own QuickTime online video player in number of users last year. As of January, QuickTime had 12.8 million users, Nielsen/NetRatings said.
Nevertheless, the leader of the pack by a wide margin is Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Player. In January of this year, Media Player's user base rose to 71.1 million from 60.8 million a year ago.
But iTunes at least since January 2004 has always led in the average amount of time users spend on the software. In January, the average was nearly one hour and 51 minutes, compared with about 46 minutes for RealPlayer and Windows Media Player.