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The story goes that Apple originally intended for iTunes to be a "break-even" business, but the popular music and video service has proven more successful than those earliest projections could have dreamed of. Indeed, based on Asymco's calculations (via 9to5Mac), iTunes on its own would rank as 130 in the Fortune 500 list of the top U.S. companies.
Asymco made the observation after discovering that iTunes' gross annual income shot up by 34 percent year-on-year to $23.5 billion. That means it brings in about half as much as Google's search business, and the projected ranking would put iTunes right between Alcoa and Eli Lilly.
In Asymco's words, "Growth was driven by increases in revenue from App sales reflecting continued growth in the installed base of iOS devices and the expansion in the number of third-party iOS Apps available. Net sales of digital content, including music, movies, TV shows and books, from the iTunes Store was relatively flat in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the first quarter of 2013."
Apple's no stranger to these comparisons; you might recall that last year Businessweek noted that the iPhone was a bigger business on its own that Microsoft, McDonald's, and Boeing. On the flip side, this may be as good as it gets for iTunes. Back in December, a report by Billboard suggested that music downloads peaked in 2012. Streaming, the report argued, may be the new king.
Follow this article's writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.