Last year, about this time, some bloggers posted the question: “could the cloud replace iTunes?” What they wanted to know, really, was what it would take to play streaming music on Apple’s popular platforms like the iPod and iPhone.
Then, last week, the announcement that Apple was acquiring Lala, a streaming music service, hit the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Peter Kafka posts that the sale went down for $80 million.
With iTunes dominating the music downloads business in the U.S., it was likely just a matter of time before the tech giant decided to spend some of its reported $32 billion in cash on something to get them into the streaming market. Reuters is reporting that “Apple recognizes the model is going to evolve into a streaming one and this could probably propel iTunes to the next level.”
In a way, Apple is to music technology what Microsoft has been to desktops. Apple dominates the hardware and most of the software market in portable music. If they owned most of the major recording studios, the analogy might be complete.
The question for Apple, however, is “Why Lala?”
The streaming service has made a lot of inroads into the market, for sure; especially given their recent deal with Google for music search collaboration. On the other hand, Lala uses a Flash-based interface and Apple has been publicly averse to using that in their own technology.
It may be that Apple is really after the back-end that Lala offers, including that Google deal and streaming licenses. This was alluded to in the NYT article, which also points out that Lala actively sought Apple and not the other way around. It seems plausible.
Since the quiet release of iTunes Preview was launched last month, it seems that Apple is moving towards a more Web-based music option and away from the iTunes desktop.