Lala Shuttering May 31, So What?

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Word came down from the hilltop last week that lala.com would be closing up shop at the end of this month. The whole of the Internet and its gaggle of pundits were quick to jump on the ‘iTunes.com is coming!’ bandwagon. I, for one, thought the same thing. Why else would Apple have purchased lala in the first place? But now I’m not so sure it’s coming anytime soon.

Apple’s acquisition of lala.com back in December was a quiet affair with no official press release issued by either party. An exact sum was never disclosed but many have reported or been told by those “familiar with the matter” that Apple paid $85 million for the music-streaming service. With everything moving to the ‘cloud’ this buyout made sense. Less than a week later, MySpace announced that it had purchased imeem, a similar music-streaming service. That’s not to say MySpace will in any way compete with Apple, but it was a sign of the times. And I’m fairly certain I heard whispers of Google being interested in lala shortly before the deal went through.

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Lala was perfect for music junkies like myself and I rarely pay for any online services. When you signed up for the service you were granted one free play of every track available through lala. Songs or ‘web songs’ could be purchased for as little as 10 cents and could be played as many times as you’d like, but those tracks were stored in the cloud and nowhere else. New users were also given 50 free web tracks to begin. But lala’s main attraction was the ability to store your existing iTunes library in the cloud no matter how you came about ‘owning’ them. Assuming lala had a deal with the corresponding record labels. This one feature could, yet again, change the music industry. Apple is now a media company and this would just be another facet to a growing conglomerate.

Apple clearly doesn’t have a rival in the digital music space on such a large scale, but they do have one competitor in Redmond that’s been quite successful. Many will scoff at Microsoft’s Zune, but a Zune Pass is a great deal. For $15 a month, Zune Pass users have access to unlimited amounts of music, but said music will be wiped from your Zune library and Zune should you decide to cancel your subscription. You do, however, get to keep ten tracks every month while you subscribe. If Apple goes down a subscription path they could make it work. Microsoft’s only downfall (IMO) is that Zunes are only compatible with Windows machines, which is exactly why I don’t use one.

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A lot of folks these days have more than one computer. All of my music is stored on my personal laptop, which typically stays at home. I don’t have access to my iTunes library at work other than what’s stored on my iPhone. The thought of being able to access my library through a web portal has me grinning from ear-to-ear. Or from my iPhone. Or my iPad. The technology Apple acquired through lala would allow them to do this fairly quickly. The only thing that could possibly be holding them back is the music industry itself.

A move to the cloud for iTunes is inevitable, but that’s not what’s in question. The question is when and how Apple will do it. Some pontificate that June’s WWDC will be the venue for iTunes in the cloud to be announced, but why would such a consumer-oriented announcement come at a developer’s conference? My money is on the iPod event that will surely happen in the fall or another special event that might pop up this summer. Or next week.

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