Apple’s Cloud Music Plans Don’t Involve Unlimited Subscription


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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