No Subscriptions From Apple, Future iTunes to Upgrade Users' Media Catalogs to Lala Cloud?

iphone_media-model

In a guest-post on TechCrunch, MP3.com founder and MP3tunes CEO, Michael Robertson cites a "wide variety of insider sources" when saying Apple will NOT offer subscription services any time soon, but rather leverage their recent acquisition of Lala to take iTunes to the cloud:

An upcoming major revision of iTunes will copy each user’s catalog to the net making it available from any browser or net connected ipod/touch/tablet. The Lala upload technology will be bundled into a future iTunes upgrade which will automatically be installed for the 100+ million itunes users with a simple “An upgrade is available…” notification dialog box. After installation iTunes will push in the background their entire media library to their personal mobile iTunes area. Once loaded, users will be able to navigate and play their music, videos and playlists from their personal URL using a browser based iTunes experience.

This, Robertson maintains, will allow Apple to sidestep new licensing agreements and still provide content to the tens of millions of iPhones, iPod touches, Apple TVs, and (presumably forthcoming) iTablets/iSlates. Lala's involvement in specific, he says, will give Apple a jump-start in rolling out the service, essential in competing with the likes of online-powerhouse Amazon.

And Robertson states flat out we can expect mobile iTunes in 2010.

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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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No Subscriptions From Apple, Future iTunes to Upgrade Users' Media Catalogs to Lala Cloud?

22 Comments

I so want this.
Even better, allow me to allow my friends n fam controlled access to my iTunes library from their own iPhones n computers.

Can not wait for this! Sick of having to go back and forth syncing adding and removing music and other media when I can have it all there all the time.

The nice thing is that they could stick with 16 & 32 GB versions Goethe next iPhone, but still provide all the music in your iTunes while keeping costs down. Of course storage is still good for offline use.

thats ridiculously awesome. i was figuring they had something like this up their sleeve. apple seems to have shut lala up about releasing their app for the iphone to sync with your music on lala. it would be nice if they offered the same 10 cent song purchasing in the cloud though i primarily listen to music from my iphone and computer so I dont need to burn or copy anything.

my internet connection would get cut off about a third of the way through my music collection, add video and it would fill my monthly cap for over a full year, i call bee ess on this one

After installation iTunes will push in the background their entire media library to their personal mobile iTunes area.

What could possibly go wrong with that?
Apple has contracts with major record labels.
Apple knows exactly what you have on your computer.
Even DRM free apple downloads have your personal signature embedded.
Nope, it all checks out ok boss, no problem here.
@Murfp: There is no evidence they are going to sent the entire library of mp3s, More likely simply hashes of each song (finger prints).

Camels nose under the tent alert:
Aside from the fact that there is not being enough bandwidth to support everyone streaming their music, you have to wonder why would apple or the record labels do this? What's the point? The extra memory in the device is cheaper than the yearly service fee.
I suspect this is the first step of a "Permission to Listen" system, where you have no files on your systems, and it all streams from the net, where there is a database of the songs you (cough) "own".
The labels would love this.
In 10 years when they have weaned you from your mp3 files piracy will be far more difficult.
They could even start charging micro-payments for each time you listen, and do it so cheaply that most people will gladly pay 2 cents per listen, figuring they will be sick of it before they hit the one dollar mark.

I SERIOUSLY doubt that even Apple can build a server farm big enough to cope with that volume of data or bandwidth currently. You're talking hundreds of millions of Gigabytes and that costs.

Maybe this is what that server farm outside of Charlotte, NC is for?
I would have to agree that bandwith would be the biggest limiting factor in this plan, both uploading and downloading. If you need to be connected to WiFi or some cellular signal to get access to your music then there will certainly be situations in which you could not have access...heck, even on an airplane as an example.
I like the idea in theory, but mark me down as someone that likes to have the files at least somewhat in my possession on my own hard drive. I am not that huge of a fan of "the cloud."

while this is a great idea on paper, were not ready to put our music/lives on the cloud. I don't think that this is a good idea. Anyone familiar with tech knows that the U.S. trails behind just about every major country regarding internet speed. A recent Akamai's survey of international internet speeds placed the U.S. at 18th (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/6872750/President-Obama-hires-USs-...). Our security/dependability of the internet is not much better. Even the biggest cloud companies (Twitter and Google) have faced MULTIPLE attacks. Reliability is a whole different issue which people who have the iphone on att know what i mean.
This may sound cheesy, but even the obama administration wants tighter security measures for the internet and has hired a cybersecurity coordinator (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/6872750/President-Obama-hires-USs-...) to prevent fire-sales (i.e. live free or die hard).

Just a couple points.
- LastFM also asks to look at your entire music collection and to monitor all of your music listening behavior. In return, it offers personalized exposure to new music and some social networking stuff; it doesn't even let you stream your library, and people give LastFM all their information anyway. Music listener behavior is very valuable. Apple Genius, as it is now, completely blows. If they work on their recommendation algorithms, use all the data available to them, and create streaming playlists of new music, Genius could bring in a chunk of new music sales for the iTunes store.

  • There has been a lack of high capacity mp3 players since the entire industry went to flash memory. There's definitely an advantage in terms of battery life and decreased likelihood of hard drive vs. flash memory failure. But the average storage capacity for all mp3 players on the market plummeted within about 2 years. That's really the attraction of this new rumored service and the existing services like ooTunes or Simplify2: it's not that people want to stream their entire library from home (since it rapidly reduces battery life), but that the ability to do so offsets the low memory capacity associated with using flash memory. If you have a large music library, you have an annoying management problem with the iPhone or any flash-based iPod, trying to swap out small proportions of your high bit-rate music library through iTunes, which is absolutely terrible for that purpose.

So, Apple would do it for the reasons of making people who listen to music and buy music happier while getting a ton of data that they can mine, with the eventual goal of increasing music sales.
The recording industry -- as if we should care what they want -- has already made a deal with Lala by which it is legal for a company to monitor what music files a user already has on his computer (how ever it got there) and streaming whatever matched music files the company has in its databases, on the presumption that the user really does own those music files, acquired them legally, tagged them properly, etc. Streaming music from one device to many devices is considered a broadcast; streaming music from your house to your own iPhone is (presumably) completely legal, which the existence of Lala can attest to. That's the whole point of Apple acquiring Lala. Apple could have made deals with the recording industry from scratch, but instead, they used their iPhone allowance to buy a competitor (in digital distribution) who had already made those arrangements which serve as a basis for further negotiations.
Two years ago I was convinced that Apple would add wifi compatibility to their entire iPod line just for the purpose of streaming your library from a home PC, in exchange for gathering user behavior data in the form of a mine-able database.

This might work for items purchased from iTunes. Those files are already stored and simple enough to stream but there's no way Apple would let anyone upload anything they didn't buy from them. There's huge copyright and financial issues.

@Victor:
Lala can't do it. Those guys owe their success (to the extent they have any) to their minuscule market. If they were trying to stream to every itouch/iphone user that is listening to music at this very instant they would crash the network.
@Dennis:
Good post.
I think Apple bought Lala for any patents or other IP they hold, not somuch any contracts.
Lala is riding on rulings won by the cable TV industry. They prevailed in asserting that they could store your Time-Shifted TV for you at a central location instead of having to put recorders in every cable box. All they need to do is keep track of the fact you asked it to be recorded, and save one copy on their servers.
They too have run into the same problem of bandwidth on their cable plant. If everybody time shifts Law and Order till after the big game, they don't always have enough free bandwidth to start 100 thousand individual re-streams. They succeeded themselves to death, which is why the really big carriers like comcast are in no hurry to remove hard drives from DVR boxes.
But another way this could work came to me while playing with my Barnes and Noble nook (Ebook Reader).
B&N provides an "endless bookshelf". You can fill your nook to capacity, then archive books onto your B&N account to load more or different books onto the ereader. If you ever owned a given work you could download it anytime and read it again.
Music might work the same way. Instead of streaming everything, they might just load your local memory on the device with a copy, and use it as sort of a local cache for those songs you play often. Or let you combine the two, streaming and caching.
But its clear there is not enough bandwidth to stream to everyone who is listening to music. And with the carriers screaming for caps you have two portions of the industry at cross purposes.

Onenof the only fears I have about this is eventually uploading my library of music (over 160GB) and having to lose everything like what happened to the DANGER servers and the T-Mobile Sidekick. But if this eer does happen I hope apple will compensate for this should this ever happen. I know cloud computing is new but god I see so many things that could go wrong here. But yes I am excited, and yes I will want this to happen.

@icebike; even if each song uploaded only a 5k fingerprint, a large collection (of which mine is NOT) would be 100,000*5k or 500,000k, so whats that, half a GB? i guess thats online with the 833meg genius database itunes collects, if each song represents only a 5k hash. and besides, i doubt its gonna happen

I think there may be a small change that nobody has thought of.
To fix the storage and bandwith issues of a company supplying exabytes of storage or bandwith. They could just take a snapshot of what is in your library music/photos/video and other items and keep that on a server and when you logged in it would then create a portal between your library at home let's say and your device....iPod/iPhone/laptop. So they would not stream it from there servers and it would be dependent on your Internet connection at home and remote area.
That I see much more feasable then what the press release and any drm issues that come up. Kind of like slingplayer and simplifly do but you get everything unlike with simplify you don't.
Just a thought.

If this rumor comes true I'd pay money to see AT&ts CEO's jaw drop. they're going to love tens of millions of iPhone users downloading many gigabytes OTA. can you say bad day?
Or they'll love charging me for a new "unlimited" data plan to support this...
That being said I like the idea (because I don't have nearly enough storage for my library on my 8gb 3G) . I also think that if this in the works, AT&T and apple have already been working on practical solutions to the crazyenormous increase in network traffic this would bring.

@icebike: Yes, I hadn't considered the technical and IP matters involved in Apple's acquisition of Lala. I didn't realize that Lala had used the cable industry as the legal foundation for their service, so to speak.
The quality of the music stream can be variable according to the connection speed (and probably will be), improving performance and to some degree limiting the amount of data being flung around the internet. At least, to a degree.
I know of one service (called Music Locker) that allows you to upload your actual music files to an online server and makes those tracks available to non-computer devices. It has a free service with a subscription for more storage capacity, which works with Slim Device's (Logitech's) Squeezebox players. But it's easier for everyone if Apple just uses its own enormous library than if Apple actually acquires and stores a copy of every user's actual music library.
By the way, if Apple doesn't support file formats other than AAC, this service will be a lot less interesting. I don't know why they would do that, though, since they don't need the actual music file to stream the music.

@dennis
music locker (mp3tunes.com) has an app "airband" for the iphone... it does exactly what this article says apple will do