Monday, May 16, 2011

Apple, iCloud and iTunes - Predictions

Apple is much expected to make an announcement next month that they're releasing a cloud based music service a la Amazon Cloud Drive and Google Music.  Much of what I've heard from others is speculation that they're going to release a competitor to those serices directly, a "music locker"  where you uplaod music that you already own to their servers are are able to stream it directly to your device.  While possible, I think they are going to release something of the same vein but drastically different.

If you look at the headlines, one thing is immediately obvious, record labels are unhappy with Google and Amazon.  They want in on the cloud based music streaming business as much as anyone, making absurd claims that streaming your own song from someone elses computer consitutes a public performance among other things.  Google and Amazon launched their services anyways, not worrying about any potential repercussions with the record labels (a good decision if you ask me).  Apple on the other hand is stil in talks with 2 of the record companies, but why?  Surely if they were announcing a cloud based locker service there's no reason to really get the approval of the record labels...

We speculate that Google's negotiations with the recording industry fell apart when trying to negotiate a deal to stream music purchased through Google Music to users from a single copy of the song hosted on Google's servers. Therefore with a little bit of extrapolation, it's not hard to imagine thats where Apple is held up as well.  So... if Apple is making that a core part of their business model then my prediction is that Apple is trying to make a cloud based service where they host only one version of the song....and everyone streams that one version that they've purchased through iTunes, foregoing the music locker concept altogether.

So a few people I've mentioned this to said they wouldn't use the service if Apple did this but if you think about it, Apple has every reason to only offer this service. No huge bandwidth requirements for people uploading 200 days of music, way less space required on the server side and perhaps most importantly Apple gives you yet another reason to buy things through iTunes. With tight integration into iOS and iTunes, Apple could make this offering seem pretty lucrative albeit restrictive.

What do you think?


  1. It seems a little strange to me that music services have balked so much at the idea of the cloud-based locker service. It provides such an amazing opportunity for copy control and identifying illegal copies of songs in other people's libraries, while making it easier than ever for the user to have legal copies of the music.

    Consider that each music file is a little different, whether it be from DRM like iTunes has traditionally used, or because your CD drive ripped your music a little differently. If you took a fingerprint of each file, you could easily identify duplicated music if two people uploaded the same file to a locker. There are, of course, other ways to get media, like DRM-free downloads, where exact duplicates might be legally possible. However, these could be screened out by simply having those fingerprints on file. Also, you could be required to show proof of purchase for media from these sources (perhaps just a link in to your amazon account, for example).

    With a little imagination, it would be so easy to make these services very productive for both the user and the album industry. Such a shame the label companies seem to be unable to see these opportunities for what they are, instead of just being so fearful of more illegal music sharing. Instead, we are going to see yet another deal with Apple requiring user's to be locked into an ever-expanding hell of Apple's substandard yet overpriced software and devices.