Apple (s aapl) has published the “best” and most popular choices for 2009 at the iTunes Store, and the results are interesting, if not necessarily representative of the world outside the store.
In music, the top-selling album, “Only By the Night” by Kings of Leon, was also chosen as album of the year. Lady GaGa was best new artist, while Michael Jackson was artist of the year. Since the iTunes Store has a catalog of some 10 million songs and roughly accounts for a quarter of music sales, at least in the U.S., both the popular and editorial choices make sense. With movies and television, not so much.
“Up,” from Disney, (s dis) whose second-largest shareholder and board member is Steve Jobs, has the top corner spot among best movies, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Arguably, what is wrong is “Pineapple Express” being second in top sales and rentals. According to BoxOfficeMojo, that film ranked 34th in 2008, though it was only released this year on disc. However, the highest-grossing movie of 2009, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” released on disc in October, isn’t yet available at the iTunes Store. Clearly, in terms of film, “best of” comes with a “what he got” caveat, as it does for television. When your best-seller list for television includes “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” you know you have a problem.
It’s a problem Apple has been trying to address for years, most recently reported as plans for a subscription-based model for video content. For $30 a month, one would get all the television one could watch. So far, the networks, and for that matter the movie studios, have largely remained outside the iTunes Store, but that’s true for pretty much every other digital store. In contrast, the App Store is exactly where application developers want to be.
Following the release of the “funnest” iPod touch ever, we have the best and most popular applications of 2009 divided into games and other apps. Apple appears to increasingly see gaming as intrinsic to its mobile devices. Critics of iPhone OS as not being a viable and commercially profitable gaming platform take note. All but one of the 10 best-selling games for 2009 costs $4.99 or more, and many of them, like The Sims 3, originally sold for $9.99.
Among other apps, MLB.com is not surprisingly popular, probably because it’s free right now, though $9.99 for the season. More surprisingly, MobileNavigator North America ranks among the most popular of applications, despite a price of $89.99. TomTom U.S. & Canada at $99.99 is also in the top 10, as are SlingPlayer Mobile and Golfshot: Golf GPS, both $29.99.
Again, the point is that the App Store is not a place with 100,000 free fart and flashlight apps, but rather a store where serious money can be made at the right price for the right content. If only the movie studios and television networks realize that — perhaps the iTunes Store “Best of” lists for 2010 will be just that, rather than the best of what’s available.