Apple has been raking in cash with its iTunes music store over the past several years, in the process forcing the music industry and consumers to get comfortable with paying $1 per downloaded song. These days, you’ll find iPod and iPhone users toting around dozens of gigabytes worth of downloaded music with them wherever they go. Soon though, Apple might just side-step the download process and stream your music library directly to your iPhone. The iPhone maker has agreed to acquire streaming music start-up LaLa, sparking speculation that iTunes will eventually offer music over the air.
Like other online music services, LaLa offers up 8 million songs online, allowing you to stream them to your ears once for free. There’s also an option to buy an MP3 outright and download the song to your computer or smartphone. That’s all well and good, but the real draw for LaLa’s service is its online streaming model. For $0.10 per “web song,” LaLa will stream a particular song to your computer as many times as your little heart desires. These “web songs” stay in LaLa’s “cloud,” so you can access your music collection from any computer with access to the web.
The acquisition points to an interesting future for Apple’s iTunes. With LaLa’s song legally-license song library in hand, Apple is perfectly positioned to offer its own music-streaming service for iPhones and iPods the world over. The only thing keeping streaming music from exploding onto the mobile scene is consumers’ aversion to keeping their songs stored on servers that they have no control over, while at the same time relying on wireless networks that might not be available all the time. Still, Apple may have the brand loyalty and recognition to convince people of the benefits of streaming music.