Top P2P Applications: 1.6 Million PCs Rank Them

By Richard Menta 4/16/08

"We have a powder keg of data here" I told Digital Music News publisher Paul Resnikoff as I completed this quarter's Digital Media Desktop Report. The report, a coordinated effort between Big Champagne, PC Pitstop and Digital Music News, tracks the global installation base for leading digital music applications including P2P clients, ecommerce clients, and jukebox applications. More than 100,000 unique PCs are polled for this data each month and more than 1.5 million unique PCs are polled over a given year. Over the past 12 months we analyzed data from 1,661,688 machines



For the entities that created these applications this data is a potent tool; one that can draw needed VC money or boost the stock price of those that are publicly traded. Of course, this is a report for purchase by digital music insiders and investment analysts so the general public is mostly unaware of these figures or the dramatic trends they imply for the near future.

That's when I convinced Paul it is only good business to share with the public a piece of a past report and demonstrate a sample of what we have uncovered. Figures that offer a baseline perspective to what was occurring in the P2P space last year ending September 2007 and what it all may mean for 2008. There is a lot of change occurring, change that not only makes clear how badly once popular names have faded, but identifies the up-and-comers among a myriad of budding entrants.

Some Numbers

Before we go into a few numbers I strongly recommend that those interested read the Methodology for Data Collection and Analysis at the end of this article. I attached the same text that is found in the original reports so that it is clear to the reader the limitations and virtues offered by this data.

In our research we found that LimeWire is far and away the single most popular P2P application. In September of 2007 LimeWire was found on 17.8% of all the PCs polled that month (also referred to as the attachment rate). With regards to market share - counting only those users with at least one P2P application on their systems - LimeWire held a 36.4% share, meaning one out of three P2P users has LimeWire on their system. These numbers are up slightly from September 2006 when LimeWire held a market share of 34.1%.

µTorrent adoption boomed during this period. In September of 2006 µTorrent was found on 1.5% of all PCs polled, good for a 3.0% market share. By September 2007, µTorrent held an attachment rate of 5.6%, which gave it an 11.3% market share. In less than a year µTorrent became the king of the BitTorrent clients, surpassing former top BitTorrent client Azureus by May of 2007.

Two new applications to look out for are FrostWire and Pando. Both have made significant gains over a nine month period and so far their growth is similar to the early rise of µTorrent. It will be interesting to see if they can sustain this growth in the coming months.

The latest report was released today and extends the research to December of 2007. Those who are interested can purchase it from the Digital Music News site here. The Press can contact Paul Resnikoff at Digital Music News headquarters at 310- 928-1498 if they desire more information on this new report.

Methodology for Data Collection and Analysis

PC Pitstop performs diagnostic tests on hundreds of thousands of unique PCs each month, worldwide. The primary purpose of these tests is to eliminate viruses, adware and spyware and to identify opportunities to improve PC performance. These tests are voluntary, and aggregated data captured during these tests provide the basis for the analysis in this report.

Over a twelve-month period, 1,661,688 PCs were polled for this analysis. In September of 2006 alone, data from 174,777 systems was collected. These numbers include only the information of first-time users of PC Pitstop, so each data point is unique. The end result of such a large cross-section is a clear month-over-month history of the applications favored by PC users.

The massive survey number reveals deeper trends. For example, a smaller survey would not detect the bubbling adoption of Frostwire and Pando. PC Pitstop captured 152 unique P2P clients in its analysis, including fringe participants. Only a data set this large could accomplish this and then follow the rise and fall of each and every client.

The data has its limitations. Although the survey can detect the presence of an application on a hard drive, it cannot tell if that application is being actively used or not. We can read through the month-to-month analysis to determine the flow of adoption and rejection of a particular application. For example, the sharp and quick rise of µTorrent is unambiguous. Likewise, the dramatic collapse of Kazaa as a presence on systems is also clear, particularly since not all users actively purge old unused applications. Change is what we seek in these numbers, change that is consistent over the given period of time. It is this change that tells the story.

Another limitation comes from convergence, or situations in which applications handle multiple activities. For example, the iTunes application is required to access Apple's iTunes music store, but it is also used as a music jukebox and as a necessary file transfer application for the iPod. Can we honestly assume that all consumers use iTunes for all three? Probably not, but it is reasonable to assume that a healthy percentage do. In our analyses, we make levelheaded assumptions about an application's popularity for a specific use.

We are also witnessing some shift in the market from client-based media access tools like RealPlayer to clientless web-based applications that only require a common browser plug-in. More operations are adopting Flash and Java technologies to deliver music and video - Slacker and YouTube are two notable examples - and that trend adds to the complexity of market share measurement. The fact that Slacker takes a multifaceted approach by also offering its users a client for improved media transfers adds to the complexity.

One more issue is the rise of Mac penetration into double digit territory in the consumer market. PC Pitstop only measures Windows machines and only a subset of the applications detected operate on a Mac - Windows Media Player being the most notable application that does not. Therefore, it is likely that Apple consumer use patterns are somewhat different. This was less of an issue when Apple held only a tiny portion of the consumer PC market, but as that company's fortunes continue to blossom, its presence must be recognized.

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