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Apple Pondering Music Streaming?

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CNET is reporting Apple is in an “advanced” stage of talks with music service Lala, according to a pair of sources, one of which asserts that terms have already been agreed upon. If so, such a deal could portend big changes in how the iTunes Store does business.

Lala launched in 2006 as a CD trading website, followed by more permanent changes to its business model. Lala now sells DRM-free MP3s for as little 89 cents, as well as “web songs” for 10 cents. According to Lala, a “web song is a song that lives on the Internet,” that dime getting you unlimited number of plays from a web browser, which isn’t a micro-subscription at all. Yeah, this sounds exactly like what Apple is interested in.

Since the inception of the iTunes Store, Apple has been unequivocal in its opinion of music subscriptions—by any name—and often that non-equivocation has come from Steve Jobs. In a 2003 interview with Rolling Stone, the Apple CEO explained the intrinsic problem with “web songs,” that you don’t own your own music. He then added this Jobsian gem.

I think you could make available the Second Coming in a subscription model and it might not be successful.

So has Steve Jobs suddenly found his infinite plays of his own Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode for just ten cents? It seems unlikely. More likely, Apple may be interested in Lala because Google is interested. Lala recently partnered with Google for the search giant’s music service, and more recently Google acquired AdMob. Shortly before that acquisition, Apple was supposedly in talks with AdMob. However, while buying AdMob might have kept Google away from the App Store, Apple buying Lala won’t stop Google from seeding the Internet cloud with music.

There is another possibility, though. Lala also has a Music Mover service that lets users upload their collection and make it available “anywhere on the web.” Like an iPhone. At least, that would be the theory, though the reality of AT&T’s network might be a problem. Another problem to consider, at least for Apple, is what’s the point of buying a 32GB iPhone if 20GB of your music is in the cloud? It’s that latter issue that makes this a curious move for Apple, if a purchase of Lala is indeed Apple’s next move.

16 Responses to “Apple Pondering Music Streaming?”

  1. I don’t think that this is necessarily a huge thing for the way iTunes sells music (although I wouldn’t rule out streaming tunes as a future possibility) but more the smaller details such as Genius mixes etc.

    Owning another music service is only going to make things like ‘Genius’ stronger.

  2. Their is also Spotify. Pay 10€ month/year (I forget) and get unlimited access to all songs available on every device with a Browser.

    I don’t like the cloud because I’m human and humans want to own things. I want to have access to the files, I want iTunes LPs, Booklets, etc. Being independent from a music service probably not existing anymore two years in the future.

  3. That would be amazing if I could upload my whole itunes library to the cloud and rent songs to play on my iphone wherever I am, all from within the native iPod app. That would be great.

  4. What’s the point of a 32GB iPhone if your 20GB of music is streamable to your phone? Easy. You can fill it with 30-some gigs of movies and TV shows while still having access to all 20 gigs of your music.

  5. What will be the point of large capacity iPhones? Simple. The overwhelming majority of people don’t trust ‘the Cloud’. That is because It doesn’t work very well yet. Having services that use the cloud is great, but having 20 Gigs of music to hand anyway is a big plus. If you can change your library on the go, or stream or whatever then it’s worth having, but it’s going to be a very long time before any streaming service can totally replace having music on your device.

  6. pk de cville

    – I think this is about Apple turning back Flash.
    – (The Mac version of Flash is terrible. Flash is blocked from the iPhone.)
    – Lala appears to be successfully running a great website on Flash.
    – Apple will buy and convert Lala to HTML5.

    So the question hanging is what other Flash based businesses will they buy?

  7. Rick Roberts

    With Lala Mover, you’re not really uploading all of your songs … just the ones Lala doesn’t already have in its library. It makes note of what you have and then allows you to play them.

  8. To make the situation even more complicated, what about a site like Grooveshark? You can listen to a wide variety of songs on demand, unlike Pandora or Lala which restricts the ability to play because of licensing issues.

    From what I’ve gathered about Lala, there is also a fear of losing the music that you bought if it just lives “in a cloud.” $.10 is a nominal investment to be sure, but it would still be unfortunate to throw the money away if something happens to the site.

    Nevertheless, it does make sense that Apple is interested in exploring new options. Their iTunes store really was revolutionary, but they are starting to very slowly lose market share to the Amazon mp3 store, among others.