The existing user base of iTunes isn't a guarantee of success for Ping, of course. It just makes it easier for Apple to get its social network off the ground. Apple still has to encourage people to use Ping and its here that the service has hit its first hurdle almost before leaving the starting blocks. To really take off Ping needs to integrate with other social networks, giving an easy way to find friends - emailing friend requests is so 2009.
Ping was intended to come with support for adding friends via Facebook, but for reasons undisclosed, that feature was pulled at the last-minute. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal's Things Digital, Steve Jobs blamed Facebook's demand of "onerous terms" as the reason for the feature's removal, but wouldn't elaborate any further.
The upshot of this is that the business of finding and adding friends is prohibitively difficult at the moment. iTunes may think its boast of 160 million users is a good thing, but when you're trying to find the one "John Smith" you actually know out of the thousands using Ping it's as much an Achilles heel as a blessing.
Similarly, the ability to 'post' tracks to your profile would be much more likely to draw friends into Ping if you could also push that recommendation out to Facebook news feed, or your Twitter stream. Perhaps more critically, though, as long as it remains integrated into iTunes, Apple is going to have a devil of a time persuading non-iTunes users to pay any attention to Ping.
Nonetheless, Ping shouldn't be written off quite yet. It's been a long time since Apple produced a dud, and there's no reason to think the company is going to let Ping become one. Yes, the primary benefactor of Ping, if it takes off, will be Apple, thanks to the intended up-swing in music sales; but if those using it are having their audio horizons opened up a little, where previously they might have stuck to purchasing whatever was at the top of this weeks Hit 40 UK chart, is that really so bad?