Opinion: The pros & cons of existing streaming music services & what Apple’s needs to succeed

Beats Music iTunes Festival

Apple’s upcoming music streaming service comes at an interesting time in the industry. Jay-Z recently relaunched his own streaming music service dubbed Tidal, recruiting help from other A-list artists like Rhianna, Alicia Keys, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, and Kanye West. There are existing services from Spotify, Beats, Google, and others. All of these offerings have their own pros and cons, but I’ve used them all and none of them accomplish streaming music perfectly. Apple now has the opportunity to take the best features of each service and offer its own competitive service.

Last week, Ben Lovejoy broke down exactly what Apple’s streaming music service would need for him to stop buying music. Even without Apple’s new service, I’ve already done that. Most of my music is streamed from Spotify. Rarely do I actually buy albums on iTunes, and I almost never buy physical CDs. The problem with this approach is no streaming music service gets it 100 percent right for me.

I’m hoping that Apple incorporates the best of each existing subscription music service into its own upcoming music service. What are those key points? Let’s discuss…

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The Next Episode: Apple’s plans for Beats-based music service revealed

CueBeats

Six months after buying the subscription music service Beats Music, Apple is actively working to launch a completely new paid streaming music service that will compete with Spotify and Rdio. Yet to be named, the new service is entirely Apple-designed, yet leverages Beats’ technologies and music content, a collaboration that has thus far led to personnel challenges and delays. Multiple sources within Apple and the music industry have provided the first in-depth details of Apple’s upcoming streaming service, which we share below.

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iTunes Radio is ad-free for all & offering $5 iTunes credits today courtesy of Verizon

iTunes Radio, Apple’s ad-supported Internet radio service, is today available with “limited interruptions” courtesy of Verizon. That means that you won’t be seeing the normal ads you’re used to on the service and instead just a message from Verizon that states, “Enjoy with limited interruptions courtesy of Verizon.” The company is also handing out $5 iTunes store credits through a banner ad on iTunes Radio (pictured above).

It’s not just for Verizon customers, however, as the offer comes today only as part of Verizon’s “Connection Day” promotion offering free digital content and services to all users, not just Verizon customers. Read more

Spotify CEO: I’ve always assumed Apple would offer a streaming service

If Apple does indeed reach a deal to acquire Beats Electronics and announce it this week as expected, the clock is once again counting down to offer up your take on the whole scenario before it’s actually official. Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson got that opportunity earlier this week thanks in part to Dan Lyons of Fake Steve Jobs fame; Isaacson told Lyons he believes the expected $3.2 billion acquisition by Apple is all about creating a world class video service led by Beats’ co-founder Jimmy Iovine.

But when you think about Beats and what the company has to offer for Apple, the subscription music service launched by the company in January earlier this year comes to mind. Spotify, of course, dominates in this space as seen by the company’s announcement today that they now have 10 million paid subscribers and 40 million active users. Read more

Opinion: With all of the new Apple data centers, is it time for iCloud to get serious about storage?

icloud

The Apple ecosystem is a large part of why I stick to an all-Apple line-up for my laptops, tablet and phone. iCloud is key to that, of course, providing seamless backup and syncing between devices.

Whether it’s my calendar, contacts, reminders, notes, ebooks or Safari bookmarks, all are available on all devices within a minute or two of me updating any of them. Documents I create in Pages, Numbers or Keynote are again available from any of my devices providing I choose to store them on iCloud. As I pay the extra for iTunes Match, I’m also able to stream any of my music from any device.

In some respects, Apple clearly takes the cloud seriously. It has invested massively in expanding its network of data centers, including a $1B investment in Reno, expansion in Maiden and new data centers as far afield as Hong Kong and the Netherlands. Yet, central as it is to the ecosystem, iCloud still feels a bit like it deserves the tag Steve Jobs famously applied to Apple TV: a hobby

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iOS 8: Apple considers moving iTunes Radio to its own app to boost usage

iTunesRadioIn an effort to boost usage of its new streaming music service that launched alongside iOS 7 last fall, Apple is considering changes to iTunes Radio. The Cupertino company is now testing iTunes Radio as a standalone application with iOS 8, according to sources briefed on the plans. iTunes Radio first arrived as a feature within the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch operating system’s Music application. As a tab in the already-existing Music app, iTunes Radio has not received a promoted presence on iOS, and this likely has deterred growth for the service in terms of advertising revenue and usage…

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Apple planning fixes for keyboard glitch, Wi-Fi, Passbook bug, & Exchange in iOS 6.0.1 update?

According to a report from BGR, a reliable source informed it that Apple has begun testing iOS 6.0.1 with U.S. carriers in anticipation of a release in the coming weeks. Also mentioned in the report is a list of fixes apparently included in the update that address many of the issues users have complained about since the launch of iOS 6. Among them is a fix for the horizontal glitches that some have experienced in the iOS keyboard and folders and a number of other bug fixes for recently reported problems.

The report said the update would also bring a fix for issues with cellular data, improved Wi-Fi, as well as “a problem with the camera’s flash not going off.” Other fixes Apple will release with iOS 6.0.1 are related to iTunes Match, Passbook, and Exchange bugs:

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Fox movies finally available for re-download in iTunes in the Cloud

Multiple tipsters wrote in this evening saying 20th Century Fox movies are appearing in their purchased movie iTunes accounts ready for re-downloading over iCloud. Sure enough, Fox’s Horton Hears a Who! is on my kid’s iTunes account ready for downloading on iCloud (above, left). There is also no longer a disclaimer saying, “This movie is not available for iCloud downloading,” in iTunes (above, right) which existed before.

When Apple launched Movies in Cloud in March, both Fox and Universal held out. Universal went live on iCloud in April, and it appears Fox is going live today. The deal has been expected for awhile, as HBO allowed iCloud users access to both studios’ catalogs in March. The reasons for the delay aren’t specified but they often involve complicated contract negotiations with multiple rights holders.

Today has been a big day on the iTunes Store with Poland and Hungary both getting iTunes Match, while 37 different countries got iTunes in the Cloud for movies.

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iTunes in the Cloud for movies rolling out in 35+ countries (Updated)

Following the launch of iTunes Match in Poland and Hungary today, Apple also appears to be opening up its iTunes in the Cloud for movies in at least the United Kingdom, Canada, and Colombia, which previously only had access to music, music videos, apps, and books (and TV shows in Canada and the U.K.). There are also various other reports coming from Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland that claim the feature is going live.

Apple’s list of supported countries for the feature has not been updated to reflect the new countries. Let us know in the comments if you notice the feature rolling out in your country.

MacRumors has been tallying the updated list:

Australia, Argentine, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.K., Venezuela, and Vietnam

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iTunes Match rolling out in Poland, Hungary and others today?

We received several tips that Apple started rolling out the iTunes Match service in Poland, Hungary, and possibly a few other unconfirmed markets. Apple’s official list of availability for iTunes Match by country has not been updated to include Poland, Hungary, or any additional markets, but currently lists 55 countries with access to the service. Local reports claim the service is available for 24.99 euros in Hungary, which is on par with pricing in other markets.

Let us know in the comments if you notice iTunes Match available in your country.
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Report: Apple working on high-fidelity iTunes audio with adaptive streaming

The Guardian reports that Apple is working on a new high-definition audio format to adapt to bandwidth or hardware capabilities. Presumably, Apple will leverage the new format to distribute high-fidelity music through iTunes and perhaps upgrade the iTunes Match service that currently provides matched songs in 256Kbps AAC format.

It is believed the new audio format would intelligently adjust itself to the bandwidth and storage available on the receiving device. Such a description also gives hope that an iTunes music streaming service, which is akin to Spotify and based on Apple’s Lala acquisition, could be in the works.

According to “a source with inside knowledge of the process,” the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is working with a London studio to prep existing audio files for the new format. An anonymous source told the paper:

All of a sudden, all your audio from iTunes is in HD rather than AAC. Users wouldn’t have to touch a thing – their library will improve in an instant.

Apple’s annual iPod refresh that usually takes place in fall could be a fitting venue to announce the new high-fidelity format. Another possibility is the forthcoming iPad 3 event rumored to take place March 7.

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