High school students like iPods, sharing files

Apple's iPod still has a dominant share of high schoolers, who are still defying the RIAA when obtaining music online, according to a recent survey.

Tom Krazit
Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
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The latest version of financial analyst firm Piper Jaffray's biannual survey of high school students and technology states the obvious, but also contains some interesting tidbits.


Let's get the "duh" stats out of the way first. In case you were unaware, the survey confirms that Apple is a big player in the portable media player market. Eighty percent of students surveyed by Piper own a portable music player, and 82 percent of those own an iPod of some type. Of those planning to buy a music player in the next year, 78 percent plan to buy an iPod.

Unsurprisingly, high school students also seem undeterred by the RIAA's campaign against file sharers. Eighty-two percent of students are downloading music, and almost two-thirds of those who obtained music online did it through a file-sharing service, according to Piper. That's down somewhat from two years ago, when 80 percent of students obtained online music through P2P networks, but it's still pretty high.

Some of the more interesting stats were buried in the tables. For example, Microsoft's Zune player has shot up to become the clear second-favorite behind the iPod, although it still trails by a large margin. Thirteen percent of those looking to buy a music player in the next year say they'll buy a Zune. But, as expected, that's not coming at the expense of the iPod. In the spring, 73 percent of students looking for a music player said they wanted an iPod, and now 78 percent want one. Sony's the big loser, as only 4 percent of students now want one of Sony's music players, down from 11 percent just six months ago.

Those who purchase music legally online are actually doing less of it with Apple than six months ago. Apple's share of the high school student market--at least those willing to pony up for their music--fell from 89 percent in the spring to 79 percent in the latest survey. Piper thinks that might be because other services now offer DRM-free tracks and because the P2P downloading continues, although since the more profitable iPod continues to be popular, they figure Apple's in decent shape.

And of course, this post wouldn't be complete without an iPhone mention. Three percent of students reported owning an iPhone, and just 9 percent said they plan to buy one in the next six months. That's probably because the average age of those surveyed was 16.4, and most kids at that age don't have $399 to spend on a mobile phone unless Mom and Dad are feeling generous.

Piper didn't cover Macs, but college students might be a better estimate of what's going on in that area. Princeton students are apparently snapping up Macs, according to the student newspaper, and that also seems to be the trend in Minnesota, Connecticut and Missouri. The annual back-to-school shopping season fell during Apple's fourth quarter, which ended in September, and when the company reports earnings in two weeks we might get a better sense of just how widespread that trend has become.

Piper, which tells anyone who will listen to buy Apple stock, surveyed 980 students about a wide variety of purchasing habits, and 800 students at 11 high schools specifically about digital music and the iPhone.