iTunes is becoming the new standard for online media content, a new report reveals.

According to recent data from Nielsen//NetRatings and Apple, unique users of Apple's QuickTime-based iTunes passed QuickTime in mid-2005, and at current growth rates iTunes should pass RealPlayer by mid-2006.

Boosted by its desktop OS dominance, Microsoft's Windows Media Player seems set to keep more unique users than iTunes. "In mid-2006 Microsoft's player will have about 80 million unique users, while iTunes will have just under 30 million," the report explains.

But there's more to setting a standard than distribution alone - people need to actually use the software that's installed - and Apple holds sway here: "People are tuning in over twice as long with iTunes (111 minutes) than with RealPlayer or Windows Media Player," this month's Bandwidth Report reveals.

There's also been a commensurate climb in broadband penetration in the US, which should reach 70 per cent in April 2006, the report claims.

The Bandwidth Report is a monthly roundup of connectivity trends in the US and elsewhere.