As the dust settles on the recent deals and launches in the digital music space, the motivations behind each is becoming clearer. But none of the shifts are more dramatic than the changes that appear ahead at Apple and iTunes as signaled by its purchase of Lala.
Next year, iTunes will undergo an overhaul aimed at extending its influence from the iPod to the cloud. It's a natural shift for a computer company whose hottest product is the iPhone; and it comes at a time when online music services like Spotify and MOG are challenging the meaning of "owning" music - the underlying model for both iTunes and the iPod.
Music Moves To The Cloud
The engine powering iTune's still in-development shift to the web will be Lala according to the WSJ, and its forward thinking executive team, who are said to be assuming senior positions within Apple.
What lies ahead?
Speculation includes a web based version of iTunes that eliminates the need to download software or even the music itself. A locker which places your music collection in the cloud for "everywhere" access is also a strong possibility.
But most exciting for fans, and perhaps most importantly for a company like iTunes that wants to stay ahead of the curve could be Apple's endorsement of the shift in what music ownership means. Will iTunes add Lala's 10 cents for the right to stream a song or offer unlimited music streaming for a fee?
The goal for Apple - and a lure for consumers - is the seamless integration of every corner of music and entertainment consumption. But the motivation behind Apple's Lala purchase also presents a new minefield for both record labels and fans. The more Jobs & Company controls their music, the less that they do.