Will Apple plus LaLa mean streaming nirvana?


Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) confirmed its acquisition of music streaming company Lala today, a potentially huge move if – but only if – it leads to music streaming for all Apple products. While the service as it is today takes more of a “taste-and-buy” approach to music than a pure subscription model, some believe Lala will mean a streaming subscription service is in the cards for Apple.

Today Apple doesn’t let users stream full songs, a delivery method that is increasing in popularity, but that is Lala’s speciality. Lala houses more than eight million songs that can be played anywhere on the Web. The first listen is free and songs for purchase start at only a dime each. By streaming songs from the cloud, users can listen as much as they like. Lala also has its own iPhone app in the works that would bring its Web-based service to the handset. The company already has music streaming relationships in place with Google and Facebook.

The popular, albeit not yet profitable, service could give Apple users access to digital content across its entire product line, including iTunes and user-generated content on MobileMe. One analyst suggested the mash-up of Lala’s music catalog with Apple’s applications could create a service similar to Apple’s Genius feature except driven by real people, not algorithms. The result would be that users can listen to their friends’ music collections, create their own playlists and be updated when new music appears. The merger of iTunes and Lala could also mean a seamless music-streaming experience across all of Apple’s products, including the iPhone, PC, iPod and any Macs.

Apple hasn’t released details on its plans for Lala yet, but at the least, it removes a big competitive threat to iTunes. At the most, it could again change the face of music - just like Apple did when it first introduced iTunes.

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