Apple should have purchased Pandora when it had the chance. Same goes for Spotify and maybe even SiriusXM while the stock was bargain-basement priced.
While Apple has made some strides with iTunes 11 (changelog), other than a long-needed overhaul of the user interface the only significant change in iTunes 11 is deeper iCloud integration, which is too little too late. Now that the initial waves of breathless reviews of iTunes 11 are behind us, people are starting to realize that it's the same bloated app that it ever was.
And I'm not even talking about the sheer weight and size of iTunes here, it desparately needs to be split into separate apps for sync (iSync), music, movies and Store, but that's a topic for another post. I'm talking about the fact that people don't want to lug around their multi-gigabyte (sometimes terabyte) libraries of MP3s any more.
Steve Jobs may have famous said that "people want to own their music," the world has changed a lot since 1997. People want streaming music and Apple's missing out on a significant revenue stream but not giving them what they want. Just look at the success of services like Spotify, Pandora, Rdio and thier ilk. Apple could have eaten their lunch and owned the market for streaming music but it chose to take a wait and see approach (like it has with mobile commerce).
Here's a short list of what Apple should add to iTunes to stay competitive:
- Streaming. Everyone's doing it and Apple needs to capitalize on its dominance in iOS software and hardware and offer a real music streaming service. It took the first step with iTunes Match, now it needs to offer a full-scale competitor to the Spotify's of the world.
- Radio. Take a page out of Pandora's (and now Spotify's) book. Apple needs to add Internet Radio to its streaming offering. Like Metallica? Here's some other music that you'll also like. While the drumbeat of the iRadio rumor is getting louder, Apple's losing customers to the competition with each passing day.
- iTunes Match management. While #1 and #2 admittedly have significant barriers to entry (including support of the labels and the technical hurdles associated with cloud services) Apple could improve Match significantly without hurculian effort by adding better track management. Match desparately needs a web interface to check the status of tracks, add/delete/modify, that kind of thing. The horrible little cloud icons in iTunes simply don't cut it. And while I'm at it...
- iTunes Match web player. Apple should enable a way to play iTunes Match tracks without iTunes when I'm away from my library, on another computer, or my SSD is too small to accomodate my huge MP3 collection (my current problem). It would be nice to stream my music from a browser. I can stream iTunes Match tracks to iOS, Apple needs to extend that to the Web via a browser-based interface.
What music services to you subscribe to? Would you subscribe to a streaming service from Apple if the price was competitive?