iTunes in the sky. That prospect of a cloud-based music service from Apple appears to be moving along, with various reports that the technology giant has signed or is about to sign a cloud-specific licensing deal with the four major record labels.
According to news reports, Apple recently penned a licensing deal with EMI Music, and is on the verge of doing so with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. Warner Music Group reportedly signed a contract with Apple several weeks ago.
'Scan and Match'
It's possible that Apple could announce a cloud-based music service with licensing arrangements from the big four at its Worldwide Developers Conference on June 6.
A key driver is the cloud-music services from Amazon.com and Google, neither of which involves a cloud-specific licensing arrangement. Amazon's Cloud Player and Cloud Drive launched in March, and Google's beta version, appropriately called Music Beta, was unveiled earlier this month.
The big difference from the way Apple appears to be heading is that Amazon and Google are both essentially storage vaults that require users to spend time uploading their music collections to the cloud, while Apple may be able to provide or duplicate all or most of a user's music collection in the cloud.
Apple's service could employ "scan and match," which was used by the Lala music service that Apple bought in 2009. This approach could enable iTunes to scan a user's drive for titles and then provide access to those titles on Apple's servers.
Most industry observers expect the major record labels are hoping Apple's model works, so Amazon and Google will then be compelled to similarly license songs from the labels without a big legal battle. Apple has also been rumored to be planning a subscription fee for its cloud music service, which could mean additional revenue all around. Some have predicted a fee of about $20 annually for the Apple service.
'Pretty Much Nowhere'
Michael Gartenberg, research director at the Gartner Group, said cloud-based music is "pretty much nowhere" at present. "We've had subscription-based music services like Rhapsody for about a decade," he said, "but they've had limited success."
He noted that, at present, the Amazon and Google services are simply "replacing my hard drive with a server somewhere," and that Google, in recently announcing its Music Beta service, essentially said "this is not what we really want to do, but it's the best we can offer right now."
He predicted that, "if Apple is going to get into this game, it's likely to be something more innovative than simply cutting a USB cord."
Gartenberg added that Apple hasn't yet gotten into the cloud music business, "most likely because they don't want to deliver a service until it's ready," and, in order to do something "disruptive, they're going to have to bring along the people who own the music."
Posted: 2011-05-19 @ 11:11am PT
Apple services are always too expensive.