Music streaming is quickly growing in popularity, with services such as Pandora, Spotify and Rdio leading the charge. These companies have massive databases of music that, with a regular fee, can be obtained by customers in all its entirety. Now it seems that Apple wants in on this lucrative business, with both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reporting on the matter.
Apple’s iTunes has relied on the purchase of music for its entire life, but now Apple may indeed beef up its capabilities to match the streaming competition. According to The Wall Street Journal,
Apple Inc. is in talks to license music for a custom-radio service similar to the popular one operated by Pandora Media Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be a bid by the hardware maker to expand its dominance in online music.
Functionality of this service includes users being able to create “stations” that play music similar to a song or artist of the user’s choosing, similarly to Spotify’s radio feature.
One of the most significant parts of the report is regarding to devices supporting this service.
Apple’s service would work on its sprawling hardware family, including the iPhone, iPads and Mac computers, and possibly on PCs running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system, according to one of these people. It would not work on smartphones and tablets running Google Inc.’s Android operating system, this person added, highlighting the mounting battle for mobile dominance between the two technology giants.
This move would see Apple make Android devices completely incompatible with the service, which would further divide the two tech giants.
The licenses Apple is seeking may let it sidestep certain restrictions that typically apply to online radio, including a ban on playing any given song too frequently. Such a difference could make Apple’s service more of a direct competitor to terrestrial radio, which typically repeats a small number of hit songs.
Licensing still seems to be the big issue regarding music streaming, with artists making a significantly less amount of money with music streaming than they would if a person actually purchased their work.
Several hours later, The New York Times jumped in, mainly reiterating the point made earlier by the WSJ.
Like Pandora, Apple’s radio service would have advertising, carried through Apple’s iAd platform. Whether Apple would then share part of the ad revenue with labels, or pay them some other licensing fee, was unclear. It was also unclear whether the service would be free or require a subscription.
At this point, it seems that Apple’s streaming platform will operate much like Spotify, with a free subscription making heavy use of advertisements, and a paid version removing them. It also seems that Apple will try to tailor music recommendations to users, just like many other streaming services do.
Both reports suggest that Apple is still working on the service, indicating that it will not be featured at next week’s iPhone 5 event.