Apple is exploring moving iTunes to the Web, the latest ripple from the Cupertino, Calif. firm’s purchase of streaming music service Lala, a report said Thursday. The switch, which could come as soon as 2010, would let music fans listen to tunes from a Web browser rather than stored on a personal computer.
The new reports could buttress those suggesting Lala’s aquisition may be part of Apple embracing “cloud computing.” Apple has also made tentative steps toward a Web-based iTunes with its Preview service. iTunes Preview removes the requirement that people have the iTunes software installed in order to preview material.
At the heart of what is viewed as an “overhaul” of iTunes is Lala, the company Apple acquired for a reported $85 million Friday, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing people who’ve been briefed on the plan. Earlier reports had suggested the deal was worth either $17 million or $80 million.
However, insiders cautioned Apple is only in the exploratory stages of any change in iTunes strategy.
Although the iTunes Store is on track to earn $2 billion this year – a 20 percent increase over 2008 – the growth rate is slowing as most people who want an iPod or iPhone already own the Apple devices, the report said. A purely Web-based music service gives Apple “the ability to sell music through search engines and other Web sites and broaden its reach beyond people who come to its virtual store,” according to the publication.
A $3 million deal with search engine giant Google was one of the items Apple purchased when it bought Lala. Whether Apple was focused on Lala technology or its brainpower is still a center of debate. However, the newspaper claims Lala executives were given “key positions” where they will help guide iTunes’ planning.
For consumers, the change would eliminate many of the storage demands created from personally managing hundreds – even thousands – of music files. Although the changes being considered appear to be a win-win for both Apple and music fans, some questions remain. At the heart would be how companies (both Apple and license-holders) manage virtual music compared to physical copies.