The speculation from ex-Lala users on Twitter, leading up to Steve Jobs’ presentation at the Apple music event yesterday was by-and-large reasonably optimistic. Many were hoping that he would announce that the streaming functionality from the popular but now defunct Lala had been integrated into iTunes to enable Apple device owners to stream the contents of their libraries via an online incarnation of iTunes.
Lala's technology appears not to have been reappropriated for iTunes after all
Most were sorely disappointed however; it now looks as if the technology may well have been reappropriated to deliver the improvements showcased with Apple TV instead.
To the uninitiated, this lack of streaming might seem a little strange, however looking more closely at the reasons behind it, I don’t think so.
- Apple iPods are designed to store thousands of tracks. Why on earth would Apple suddenly make the one of the primary function of these devices (a mainstay product) effectively redundant by allowing streaming of users’ libraries? Not to mention the massive associated costs streaming billions of tracks would incur.
- iTunes store download sales delivers an enormous amount of revenue to the labels; 10 billion tracks have been downloaded thus far and Apple is still currently the largest single retailer of music in the US with its 25% share. Adding streaming to iTunes would surely reduce the number of paid-for downloads thus eating into these profits. Would the labels have been happy with this?
- Apple takes large percentage of the revenue from download sales. More streaming and less downloads would simply mean less revenue since the amount changing hands is smaller; each user would have to stream several orders of magnitude more tracks to make up the shortfall.
- Apple is still geared very much towards selling downloads as illustrated by the announcement of Apple’s new music social network, Ping, Jobs also announced yesterday. Look no further than the fact that Ping is built into the iTunes store for confirmation of this.
- Why change your strategy in the market in which you’re already the dominant player and likely to remain so; additionally why switch to one which has so many legal challenges in terms of resistance by the labels? There are a number of big streaming players – the likes of Spotify, Rhapsody and now Sony’s Qriocity are all competing in an ever-more crowded space. Jobs has never led the company into uncharted territory – he has always taken a model that is gaining popularity and made it much more usable to unleash a wave of free spending new users. Streaming is a new field, especially on mobile devices, where there is no clear road-map for Apple to follow.
- The iPhone browser blocks downloads to force users to buy music and apps from iTunes. It would be much harder to block streaming services, whcih are already allowed on the iPhone without provoking outrage from existing users by removing such functionality. So streaming is not a usage mode that Apple wants to encourage.
So – perhaps streaming to devices in the Apple ecosystem might be delivered at some stage (after the labels have been won around in a desperate attempt to look for new revenue generation areas) but if you’re an ex-Lala user looking for Apple to deliver this streaming fix, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
All is not lost however; if you own a web-enabled Apple device and you want to stream your music, why not sign up to Psonar for free, upload all your tracks to the Psonar Cloud and browse to our mobile website where you can do exactly this. You can also download your music to any computer, any other device (Android, BlackBerry, MP3 player, laptop, etc.) or stream it to any web browser whenever you like, all completely free.