Over some platters of takeout sushi, just before the release of iTunes for Windows on October 16, 2003, Apple CEO Steve Jobs warned Amazon founder Jeff Bezos that iTunes would kill CD sales.
The anecdote comes from an excellent new book, titled Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon. It’s written by Amazon employees Colin Bryar and Bill, both of whom joined the company in the late 1990s. In the book, the authors recount a fall 2003 meeting in which Bezos, Bryar and Diego Piacentini — a former Apple VP who had jumped to Amazon — traveled from Seattle to Cupertino to meet with Jobs. He recalls:
Jobs and another Apple employee greeted us, then ushered us into a nondescript conference room with a Windows PC and two platters of takeout sushi. We had an informal discussion about the state of the music industry (note: this was not long after Apple launched iTunes) while doing some serious damage to the sushi platters, for it was already past dinnertime. After dabbing his mouth with a napkin, Jobs segued into the real purpose of the meeting and announced that Apple had just finished building their first Windows application. He calmly and confidently told us that even though it was Apple’s first attempt to build for Windows, he thought it was the best Windows application anyone had ever built.
…after the demo, Jobs made a comment to Bezos that could be interpreted in a couple of ways. “Amazon has a decent chance of being the last place to buy CDs,” Jobs said. “The business will be high-margin but small. You’ll be able to charge a premium for CDs, since they’ll be hard to find.”
MacDailyNews Take: As usual, Steve Jobs foresaw the future.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), CD album sales in the United States have dropped by 97% since peaking in 2000 and are currently at their lowest level since 1986. In 2020, 31.6 million CD albums were sold in the United States, accounting for less than 4 percent if music industry revenues.