After Apple’s acquisition of streaming music service Lala Media last week, rumours are circulating as to what Apple plans to do with such a company. Apple’s official comment went along the lines of “Sometimes we buy companies and we don’t have to tell you what we plan to do with them” but a few well informed sources are already suggesting roads this may take Apple and, of course, iTunes, down.
Some say that the purchase of Lala was purely asset based and that it’s the staff and intellectual property they are after rather than the service itself. However claims this weekend point toward a shift in iTunes from desktop software and downloads to an online, subscription-based streaming service.
Both points of view are valid but we’re not particularly swayed by either. A compromise between both extremes would certainly be more than likely. An online streaming service, like Spotify, would be ideal for the Mac user who could access an iTunes library from anywhere. This wouldn’t be as handy for mobile users though, with any iPod bar an iPod touch or iPhone lacking a wireless connection, negating a streaming option.
Ultimately, a hybrid of downloads and streaming may be where Apple intends to take iTunes in the wake of this purchase. It’s not going to ditch its iPod user base to turn the entire store into a streaming service but it may well offer the opportunity to pay for a subscription to users of wireless devices and desktop computers. The Lala service itself offers streaming as well as the option to purchase tracks so it’s unlikely that the download will disappear for good.
Apple is a strong believer in consumers physically owning their music and has been an advocate of the download as well as extensions to it including the new iTunes LPs and other additions to the iTunes Store.
So while we’re pretty sure we wont see the iTunes Store repackaged into a website for subscribers only, this latest buy shows that Apple still has its finger on the pulse of the digital entertainment market, knows where it is going and is planning for the future.