WWDC

Apple’s Streaming Service Finally Unveiled, Promptly Under Investigation

WWDC

I’m sure you’ve heard the news. A few days ago at WWDC in San Francisco, Apple finally announced a streaming service that might actually be a competitor. After years of research, posturing, acquisitions, and rumors, the Cupertino tech leader will launch Apple Music.

Apple Music is pretty much exactly what was expected, and not much more. The app includes a streaming service that costs between $10 and $15 per month and makes recommendations for new artist and playlists based on what you listen to, a re-vamped radio service that includes a new live station called Beats1, and social media elements that allow artists and fans to post content and comments.

You may notice that there is not a single new feature that’s not already available from a competing service — the selling point for Apple Music is the collection of all these services in one place. There’ll be no need to switch between apps to switch between your iTunes library and streaming.

Eddy Cue, Apples’s head of software and Internet services put it this way in the New York Times, “We weren’t the first phone, we weren’t the first music player. That’s not where revolutions are made. Revolutions are about bringing it all together and having the best product that actually works.”

Spotify has already responded by announcing via blog post that its public numbers have increased yet again:

What a difference a year makes! At the end of May 2014, we reached 10 million paying subscribers and 40 million active users. Today, we have reached more than 20 million subscribers and more than 75 million active users. 10 million subscribers in our first five and a half years – and another 10 million subscribers in just a single year! That’s an average of one new subscriber every three seconds over the last year. Wow.

We’ll have to wait until the Apple Music release on June 30th to see how the it fares against established competitors like Spotify, Deezer, and Pandora — but the attorneys generals of New York and Connecticut aren’t waiting around — they’re already investigating for potential antitrust violations.

In the New York Times, Ben Sisario and Brian X. Chen report that “the attorneys general wanted to know whether Apple pressured the music labels — or whether the labels conspired with Apple and one another — to withdraw support for popular “freemium” services offered by companies like Spotify in favor of Apple’s paid music subscriptions.”

As of now there is no proof of any wrongdoing  by Apple or labels, but this type of press leaves a bad taste in the mouths of potential subscribers. Apple will need all of its brand power to play catch up with the rest of the streaming industry — and the company could still do it despite the antitrust investigation.  With 800 million iTunes accounts, $193 billion in cash, short and long term investments, 700 million iPhones sold including 135 million in the first 2 quarters of 2015 alone, one of the world’s most trusted brands and a strategic imperative to remain an important player in music — Apple is sure to be a force in the streaming wars.

Game on.

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