<-- Previous page
I fully expect to see Apple release iTunes Online this year, maybe even this summer. No, I don’t have any sources in Apple or elsewhere; as usual, Cupertino is being extraordinarily secretive about its plans. This is my best guess as to how Apple's inevitable online service will work:
- For a monthly subscription fee, you’ll be able to listen to any track or album in the iTunes Online library. This is no different from the way existing subscription services work.
- Any track you purchase through iTunes will be available as a download and also in your iTunes Online library. For an upgrade fee, maybe Apple will also allow you to add all your past purchases to your online library.
- Just as with Lala, non-subscribers will be able to listen to any track or album in full, but only once. If you want to listen to it again you’ll have to pay. Obvious Apple will let you buy the track for 99 cents with one click. I’m doubtful that Apple will revive Lala’s concept of letting you buy streaming rights for a dime, but who knows? I’m almost certain that Apple won’t support a library-matching feature like the one Lala had.
- You’ll be able to stream tunes from the iTunes Online library to any supported device, including an iPhone or iPad or Apple TV.
- Just as with those competing services, you can download copies of music from your iTunes Online library for offline listening. Those tracks will be tied to your iTunes account.
- Your iTunes Online tracks and the contents of your personal music library will both be available, merged, in the iTunes app. So you can listen to a playlist that mixes tracks you sync to your iPhone with those that are online. That is a killer advantage that no other subscription service can offer.
- Your iTunes Online library will also include TV shows, which you can buy as subscriptions, and movies and books. None of which will be in those music-only subscription services.
It wouldn't surprise me if Mobile Me is folded into the iTunes Online service.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: These services can fight it out on the Android platform. Right? That depends on whether you trust Google. As I pointed out last December:
Eventually, probably early next year, Apple is going to add cloud-based features to iTunes on its portable devices, and when that happens, third-party apps will have a hard time competing. Meanwhile, what looks like a clear field on the Android platform could turn into a very inhospitable environment if the rumored Google Music service ever takes off.
There are really only three companies that have the ability to compete with Apple at this scale: Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. It seems clear to me that Apple will get there first.
I've contacted spokespersons for all four of the competing services mentioned here and will follow up with any interesting responses.
Updated 16-Feb, 1:00PM PST: A Rhapsody spokesperson responds:
Rhapsody is the leading digital music subscription service in the US. Music fans can access the service using free apps from any Internet-connected device, be it on an Android, Sonos, Tivo, BlackBerry, iOS, or personal computer. Today, Rhapsody subscriptions are available for purchase exclusively via Rhapsody.com.
Rhapsody offers a content based subscription service that makes millions of tracks available to fans pursuant to longstanding partnerships with thousands of rights holders, all of which then distribute revenues to artists and other creators.
Our philosophy is simple too - an Apple-imposed arrangement that requires us to pay 30 percent of our revenue to Apple, in addition to content fees that we pay to the music labels, publishers and artists, is economically untenable. The bottom line is we would not be able to offer our service through the iTunes store if subjected to Apple's 30 percent monthly fee vs. a typical 2.5 percent credit card fee.
We will continue to allow consumers to sign up at www.rhapsody.com from a smartphone or any other Internet access point, including the Safari browser on the iPhone and iPad. In the meantime, we will be collaborating with our market peers in determining an appropriate legal and business response to this latest development.
Rhapsody has about as much experience as anyone fighting Apple. The odds are this one is headed for the courts.
Update 2: A spokesperson for Best Buy, which owns Napster, says "Best Buy respectfully declines comment at this time."