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Summary:

Apple has plans for putting iTunes in the cloud, but a subscription service that provides users access to its entire content library is not among them, according to a new report. Instead, Apple wants to make your existing collection available to any of your devices.

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Apple has plans for putting iTunes in the cloud, but a subscription service that provides users unlimited access to Apple’s entire content library is not among them, according to a new report by the Financial Times. Instead, the company seems interested only in using remote storage to make sure users can have access to their own personal libraries on whatever device they may be using.

FT cited several music industry executives as the source of the information. Apple has apparently been making sure its music label partners have a clear view of how it intends to use the cloud. It’s likely the company is doing this to assure the labels it’s sticking to the pay-per track model, allaying any fears its subscription revenue plans may have raised.

Apple is still planning to make use of the cloud (Tim Cook basically said as much discussing the new N.C. data center Apple will be opening this spring), but those plans don’t involve unlimited streaming of Apple’s exhaustive library to subscribing customers. Instead, Apple wants to make it possible for users to back up their existing iTunes music collections online, making them available for remote access from any Mac or iOS device associated with the user’s Apple ID (which sounds a lot like what a revamped MobileMe media “locker” aims to accomplish).

Apple sees its strategy as a form of “insurance” for iTunes customers, according to one person who spoke with FT. Apple may be spinning it that way to record labels to avoid butting heads with them over additional royalties the labels want paid for remote playback.

Currently, Apple maintains a dominant presence in the music sales business. Until it begins to feel pressure from serious competition using a subscription-based model, there’s no real reason for it to endanger that position at present. Serious competition could be just around the corner, however, as Spotify and Google both appear to be ramping up to deliver cloud-based music solutions, and Sony continues to expand the reach of its Music Unlimited service. Mike Wolf paints a good picture of the overall landscape, detailing those and other players.

Will a cloud-based locker for your existing collection satisfy your remote music needs? Or is unlimited, subscription-based streaming the ultimate future of digital music distribution?

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  1. If the cloud solution is a backup, and not a primary method of accessing my music, I’d not have a problem with it, especially on mobile devices. Current mobile networks are too spotty for primary usage, due to radio shadows, poor reception inside buildings, etc.

    I would especially welcome MobileMe becoming free again.

  2. I don’t think the correct approach for Apple is to make “iTunes in the Cloud” only a service where you are required to purchase individual tracks or albums before streaming. I used to buy a lot of albums and individual tracks through iTunes, but I could never purchase enough tracks (within reason) to satisfy my desire for VARIETY in music. I subscribed to “Pandora One” recently for that reason. For the yearly price of less than ~30 tracks through iTunes (depending on track price), I have access to an almost-unlimited number of tracks. Yes, on Pandora I can’t specifically choose the songs I want to hear when I want to hear them, but with some fine-tuning I get the types of songs I want with the variety I desire. I think it would make sense for Apple to offer some type of “Pandora-like” service and structure it in a way that would increase profits (cannibalization of iTunes is somewhat irrelevant if overall profits on music services increase). Hey, they could get my $36 back.

  3. If this is true then spotify has great chance at killing apples itunes music store sence spootify unlimited streaming is the king of all music services here in Europe :-p

  4. As long as I can load ALL my music and not just the few things I’ve purchased through iTunes, and it’s a combo backup/remote access. But if I can’t upload my ripped CDs and Amazon-purchased music? Forget it.

  5. Apple insist on double billing my cc. They refuse to give me the products I paid for. They refuse to abide by the consumers bill of rights act. They breached their contract with me. At itunes it is buyer beware, and now they have my money, and I dont have the products ordered.

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    [...] with a cloud-based music “locker” type offering that the Mac-maker has apparently been trying to negotiate with record labels. Google is also ahead of Apple in terms of cloud services, thanks to its free Google sync services [...]

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