Apple Sticks With Akamai

Akamai Technologies will continue to power streaming media downloads for Apple , including the company’s new music service iTunes, under a contract extension announced this morning.

The deal between the Cambridge, Mass., content delivery specialist and Cupertino, Calif., computer maker, also covers software downloads from, such as the QuickTime Movie Trailer site, as well as back-end support.

An Akamai spokesman declined to comment on the value or duration of the contract.

“Apple is one-of-a-kind in its use of the Web to drive business and brand and we’re excited to continue to play a role in supporting their distribution needs,” said Paul Sagan, Akamai’s president.

Sagan noted that Apple has been an Akamai customer since 1999. Apple uses Akamai’s EdgeSuite product to speed delivery of rich media and Web pages using a network of distributed servers. The offering also includes traffic management and site visitor analysis tools.

“Akamai has the scalable infrastructure to support the incredible momentum surrounding QuickTime 6 and meet the growing demand for high-quality, MPEG-4 based content,” said Philip Schiller, an Apple senior vice president.

Indeed, Apple’s choice to stay with Akamai, especially given its high-stakes iTunes launch, is a vote of confidence.

On Monday, Apple premiered its long-awaited music service to compete with the legal and illegal file sharing sites. The service sells downloads at 99 cents per song or between $9 and $15 for an album.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker, which markets its products as able to “Rip, Mix and Burn,” also launched its third generation iPod player as well as iTunes version 4.0, with the new store software included.

CEO Steve Jobs said the free method made popular by Napster, Morpheus and KaZaA offered instant gratification but not much else. He also implied that iTunes, powered by Akamai, would be faster than black market competitors.

“The downside is that it is stealing,” Jobs said yesterday. “Not to mention the download is slow as molasses and then craps out halfway through. It’s best not to mess with Karma. With our service, you just buy the songs you want.”

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