There’s been a counter on Apple’s iTunes Web page since early February that’s been ticking up to the music service’s 1 billionth download, and sometime last night it happened.

 Apple says that iPod owner Alex Ostrovsky a US national was the lucky audiophile who downloaded “Speed of Sound” by Brit pop band Coldplay, giving Apple bragging rights to the 10-figure milestone.

Thanks to a generous prize package from Apple, Ostrovsky will now use a $10,000 iTunes music card to keep those downloads flowing on his new 20-inch iMac computer, and listen to his favorite tunes on one of the 10 60GB iPods.

In addition, Apple will set up a scholarship to the world-famous Juilliard School of Music in New York in Ostrovsky’s name. The trend-setting computer and gadget maker thanked fans with a note on its Web site.  “Music lovers like you in 21 countries around the globe have purchased 1 billion songs from the iTunes Music Store,” the note read. “And for helping us reach this massive milestone in digital music history, we’d like to thank you.”

While every 100,000th music fan to download a song was awarded a black 4GB iPod nano and a $100 iTunes music card, there could be only one 1 billionth customer, and Ostrovsky was it. Launched in April 2003, iTunes sold its first million tracks in just five days and celebrated 70 million downloads on its one-year anniversary.

The service hit a half-billion on July 17, 2005, when Amy Greer of Lafayette, Ind., downloaded “Mississippi Girl” by Faith Hill and won a hefty prize package of her own. As of October, iTunes accounted for 82 percent of legal music downloads in the United States, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. While digital music sales were only 6 percent of overall music sales, they grew from $220 million to $790 million in a year, and haven’t stopped.

While companies like Microsoft and Amazon have talked about creating their own services to challenge iTunes, and consumer electronics makers like Sony have tried to dethrone the iPod by introducing their own mp3 players, no existing service or product has been able to step up to the Apple music juggernaut. “I hope that every customer, artist and music company executive takes a moment today to reflect on what we’ve achieved together during the past three years,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO in a statement. “Over 1 billion songs have now been legally purchased and downloaded around the globe, representing a major force against music piracy and the future of music distribution as we move from CDs to the Internet.”

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