Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Apple's Cloud Music Service A Mirage?

Yesterday I wrote about the likelihood of Apple debuting a cloud-based service in the near future. Today comes word from Cnet that's might not be the kind of service that Apple has planned after all.

If your not familiar with the term "cloud," it means online storage. An iTunes cloud service would allow you to put all of your music online instead of keeping a copy on each device. That means that you can access it from your computer, your phone, or iPad, or anything else connected to the Internet.

But the problem is that a new service would require a new license for the songs from the major and indie labels, and Apple still hasn't even begun negotiations, which means that we won't see the envisioned cloud service anytime soon. Negotiations with one label takes months and months, let alone with all four majors. We'd be lucky to see it in a year.

So why is Apple building a huge new server farm (they call it the "Orchard") in North Carolina?

The speculation is that Apple isn't looking to launch a cloud music service at all. It's for video.

If this is the case, here's how I see it.
  • 1) Apple is going after YouTube. Why else build a server farm for video?
  • 2) Apple will launch a music subscription service earlier than anyone expected. If the cloud music service isn't an interim step to subscription, that means they're going right to subscription, right?
All this means it should make for a very interesting year of Apple watching.

P.S. It's been reported this morning that Apple has added cloud streaming to its MobileMe iDisk app. It has some limitations though, since it appears to be limited to Apple products, and doesn't support automatic uploads as you add songs to iTunes, playlists or album cover artwork. This shouldn't be considered a cloud music service, just an iDisk improvement, but it can be construed as Apple testing the waters before a full product introduction.

The plot twists and thickens yet again.
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