Opinion: What is Apple’s thinking in spending $3.2B on buying Beats?

beats

Apple’s apparent purchase of Beats took everyone by surprise. I must confess that my immediate reaction was to be slightly appalled. As someone whose audio tastes run more to B&O and B+W, I’ve always viewed Beats headphones as over-bassed, over-priced fashion items. But then my tastes in music admittedly differ somewhat from those of the typical Beats customer.

Even so, it’s still a little baffling at first glance. Tim Cook himself said a year ago that Apple asks two questions when considering an acquisition:

Would it help us make a great product, and would the culture fit at Apple?

My immediate answer to both would be “no,” so why would Apple spend $3.2B on a headphone manufacturer with a small sideline streaming music service … ?  Read more

Report: Apple considering iTunes Store for Android & on-demand streaming service

iTunes Radio

According to a new report from Billboard, Apple is considering launching an iTunes Store app on the Android platform to combat declining music sales on the digital platform. The report also says that Apple execs are in talks with high level label executives to discuss debuting an on-demand streaming service.

Apple has opened exploratory talks with senior label executives about the possibility of launching an on-demand streaming service that would rival Spotify and Beats Music, according to three people familiar with the talks. Apple is also thinking about adding an iTunes App for Android phones, the Google rival that has been growing faster than the iPhone, these sources said.

The move to an on-demand streaming service could transform iTunes Radio from the Pandora-like radio model to the more robust on-demand model used by Spotify, Rdio, Beats Music, and others. Read more

iTunes Radio beats Spotify to take 3rd place in U.S. music streaming, eyes up #2 spot

radio

iTunes Radio, launched alongside iOS 7 six months ago, has now overtaken Spotify to become the third most popular music streaming service in America – and looks set to take second place within the next quarter or two.

Reporting on listening data compiled by Edison ResearchElectronista estimates that iTunes Radio’s 8 percent market share gives it around 20M listeners, and says that it is the fastest-growing of the top three services …  Read more

Opinion: Five years from now, will we have given up all control of our technology?

matrix

I know, it seems an odd question. But a few different things over the last couple of days got me thinking …

Years ago, before either Google or Apple ecosystems were really deserving of the term, I managed all my device synchronisation manually: I decided what content got synced on what devices. My music too: iTunes was allowed to play it, but not to manage it – I took care of the folder structures and meta-data myself. And the miscellaneous notes I kept were in a folder full of text files, the format deliberately chosen to be compatible with anything, not sitting inside Apple’s Notes app.

My view was that it should be me, not some piece of software or online service, that made the decisions about how things got done. Fast-forward to today, however, and things are quite different around here …  Read more

Apps, rather than streaming music, may be responsible for ‘peak iTunes’ – analyst

We noted at the end of last year that iTunes music downloads appeared to be on the decline for the first time, a shift that was confirmed this month. The operating assumption has so far been that music streaming services are taking over, and that a growing number of consumers are now content to simply have on-demand access to music, rather than to own it.

Asymco’s Horace Dediu, an analyst who often has interesting things to say, has suggested an alternative explanation: that we’re actually listening to less music …  Read more

Have music downloads hit their peak, with streaming taking over?

downloads

What do 1980, 1989 and 2003 have in common? They were the peak sales years for LPs, cassettes and CDs respectively. After that, a very slight resurgence in vinyl aside, it was all downhill.

Billboard magazine has an interesting piece in which they suggest that perhaps 2012 might join that list – as the year that saw peak sales for music downloads, with streaming services like Spotify, Rdio and now, of course, iTunes Radio the heir apparent …

Read more

Spotify goes free with new streaming tier on tablets, smartphones…with a caveat

From 9to5Google:

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.31.55 AM

Spotify fans the world over take note, the company is moving into the ad-supported model with a new app for both iOS, Android tablets and smartphones. The company is introducing a whole new tier of service on mobile, providing users an opportunity to listen and search for songs on the go for free with a small catch.

Read more

Google Play Music finally hits iOS with a free month of All Access and programmable radio in 21 countries

After much anticipation, Google finally released its native Google Play Music app for iOS today. The All Access and Radio service was originally announced at Google IO in May with the promise that it would be ported to iOS devices a few weeks later. Then it was rumored last month. Well, today it is really here and Google was nice enough to give us a great look at the service yesterday (video above).

Google’s music ecosystem differs greatly from Apple’s and more closely resembles Spotify or Amazon with a focus on the Cloud. On Macs and PCs you can use it through a browser with an interface that is remarkably robust for a webpage, but obviously not quite as responsive as iTunes, especially with local music.

Play millions of songs, instantly, on any device, including all the music you’ve ever bought…from anywhere.

Google’s Music is in the Cloud (mostly) so you can seamlessly move from device to device, though there is a 5 app limit (but no limit on devices with web browser access). You can upload 20,000 songs for free, create playlists and share with friends, listen to your music anywhere there is a web browser or iOS/Android device. Kind of a no-brainer… Read more

Apple said to be closing music deals in order to launch ‘iRadio’ at upcoming WWDC

Update: Bloomberg adds more to WSJ’s report from earlier claiming that Apple’s new radio service will be tightly integrated with its iAd business. The report says Eddy Cue is currently making changes to the iAd business to support the new radio service scheduled to launch later this year alongside iOS 7:

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, has been negotiating with advertising companies including Omnicom Group Inc (OMC).’s OMD to secure brands that will run campaigns on the radio service, one person said..The company has taken steps to be more flexible with advertisers to get more business. Apple has required marketers to pay a fee for each 1,000 times an advertisement is placed in an app, plus an additional $2 for every time a customer clicks that ad. In some cases, Apple has eliminated one of those charges, one person familiar with the company said.

Apple also has cut prices so that media agencies can spend $1 million and use the purchased space for different advertising clients. And Apple started taking ad business from companies that sell alcohol, something Jobs resisted after creating iAd, said one person.

We’ve heard no shortage of rumors on the rumored iRadio streaming service from Apple that has taken on some new urgency after Google released a similar service at Google I/O last month (and plans to launch it on iOS soon). The latest comes from the NYTimes, which says Apple is rushing to close deals as days wind down to WWDC’s kickoff on June 10th.

After months of stalled negotiations over its planned Internet radio service, Apple is pushing to complete licensing deals with music companies so it can reveal the service as early as next week, according to people briefed on the talks.

It would appear that Apple wants to announce the service at WWDC, but the company needs to overcome issues with closing some of the deals. CNET reported earlier today that Apple had closed the deal with Warner, one of the bigger labels.

Apple has signed a deal with the Universal Music Group for its recorded music rights, but not for music publishing — the part of the business that deals with songwriting. Over the weekend, Apple also signed a deal with the Warner Music Group for both rights. It is still in talks with Sony Music Entertainment and Sony’s separate publishing arm, Sony/ATV, whose songwriters include Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

In a strange irony, the music service Apple offers is, again, said to be free and supported by ads (like Pandora/Spotify/Slacker/etc). This is in contrast to Google’s service, which is sold via a paid subscription.

I would have guessed the opposite, but this may be why Google was able to close the deals with the labels and Apple is still at the table.

WSJ adds that Apple will pay Warner 10% of ad revenue, about twice as much as Pandora, and that the service will be integrated with iAd.

Read more

Quick Review: Twitter #music for iPhone, iPod touch is now playing

Twitter launched its new music discovery app Twitter #music for iPhone today.

Twitter #music takes a step toward filling the void created when everyone migrated from MySpace, which was one of the most effective music discovery tools for me until it was largely vacated.

Twitter promises to “change the way people find music, based on Twitter,” per the social network’s blog, which I believe will be widely appreciated.

Read more

Spotify, Tweetbot, PanoPerfect for iPad, Waze, Bad Piggies, AppHero 2.0, more

Spotify-iOS-app

In addition to a new Cloud Player app for iPad from Amazon and the roll out of iTunes in the Cloud features to new countries, below we have put together our usual list of notable apps and updates hitting the store today:

Spotify version 0.6.0: Perhaps the biggest update today goes to the Spotify iOS app which, on top of receiving a “shiny new interface” equipped with a sidebar, includes a “Now Playing” bar, a new Track menu, and a number of other new features and fixes:

• New: Shiny new interface. You can navigate around the app with a new sidebar. Check it out by swiping left-to-right, or by pressing the ≣ button in the top left of the app.
• New: Now Playing bar. You’ll always see what you’re listening to along the bottom of Spotify. To switch tracks, just swipe along it. Tap or drag to see more information about the current track. Tap the cover art in the extended view to use AirPlay, and disable/enable shuffle and repeat.
• New: Track menu. Tap the … button on any track to see a redesigned context menu.
• Fixed: “Track only available online” issues. This would sometimes appear after start-up, or when you’d been offline for a little while. Not any more.
• Fixed: Lock screen will now always display the correct track.
• Fixed: Shuffle now switches off after you’ve used “Shuffle Play” on an album or playlist.

Waze version 3.6: Waze, one of Apple’s Maps partners and an app CEO Tim Cook recommended as an alternative during the iOS 6 Maps controversy, gets some nice new features today. Among the new features is real-time road closure reporting and routing, a refined map with only relevant road names, and much more:

✓ Report road closures in real time. Waze will close off the road and route others around it
✓ Report pins tilted on map to better indicate direction of event
✓ Reduced map clutter by showing only relevant road names
✓ New moods!
✓ New inbox with multiple message selection
✓ Update gas prices popup: When in gas station users prompted to update price (Europe only)
✓ Optimized performance and multiple bug fixes

PanoPerfect for iPad: We’ve told you about the PanoPerfect app before– an Instagram type experience designed specifically for sharing panorama shots. Today the developers have released its first iPad version of the app and also revamped the iPhone app.

PanoPerfect is a free, fun, and simple way to share beautiful panoramic photos on your iPhone. Find, follow, and share gorgeous panoramic photos with friends. Panorama’s go into a stream where you can comment and like your favorite ones.

Bad Piggies version 1.2.0:  Rovio’s popular Bad Piggies franchise gets updated today with 30 new “Flight in the Night levels,” 6 Road Hogs levels, new achievements and much more. The free apps and HD iPad versions receive the same update today.

Tweetbot version 2.7.3:  The iOS versions of the Tweetbot apps get a few tweaks. The iPad version gets the same update: Read more