Yes, iTunes still sells billions of tracks every year. But sales are trending down. People are becoming more likely to access music through services like Spotify and Rdio than they are to buy the CD or download the digital track. Apple knows that they’ve got to get into the streaming business, hence the launch of iTunes Radio (which really hasn’t done that well) and their purchase of Beats last year.
You know they’re making plans. But for what? Let’s speculate wildly. Here are some views on Apple and its future streaming service.
Deep integration into iOS, iTunes, and the Apple TV is a game-changer. I use Rdio on my Mac and my iPhone and stream it to my Apple TV, but the experience is always confined to the Rdio app or web player. iOS integration would let me ask Siri to start an album or a playlist, and hopefully all the apps that tap into the music library on my iPhone—think running apps and DJ apps just for starters—would finally be able to tap into my cloud library, and not just the smattering of tracks I happen to have stored on my device. Many of these apps can already play iTunes Match tracks you have stored in the cloud, but iTunes Match can be finicky to manage and it’s still limited, by design, to music you actually own. And let’s not forget about Apple’s HomeKit push.
Based heavily upon cloud streaming, Apple’s new service is centered around the user’s music library. A new search feature will be able to locate any song in the iTunes/Beats catalog, and users will be able to stream music from the catalog as well as add songs to their personal libraries. Users will be able to select specific tracks to store on their iOS devices and/or computers, or keep all songs solely in the cloud. Apple will also deeply integrate Beats Music’s Playlists, Activities, and Mixes features into the new service, letting users access a vast array of pre-made, human-curated playlists to fit various activities. Surprisingly, Apple is likely to also update Beats’ social networking features, allowing people to follow other users and artists as they did with the failed Ping social music network.
Chances are we’ll hear about everything in June at Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Bets are that the service will cost as little at $5.99 a month.
A full summary of leaks/predictions can be found here.