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The Rise of Streaming Services

More to the point Wheeler is right: it is now all about streaming, the instant hit. Consumer interest lies in unlimited access to millions of songs that have already been neatly grouped, tagged and fitted with album covers in the Cloud. Songs that can be cached to a device if necessary. The download model will never disappear, some users revel in downloading, tagging and meticulously organising their music, but for the masses this has become too much effort. This is a powerful example of consumer evolution considering not so long ago we were all prepared to walk to the shops to buy singles.

The seemingly daft part is Apple has the means. It bought streaming music company Lala in December 2009, but 15 months on still nothing has come of it. Instead it labours concepts like iTunes LP, a misplaced value-add if ever there was one.
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This picture can be expanded. Not only did Tuesday fail to see the launch of streaming iTunes, but even more surprisingly it failed to see the launch of a revamped, free MobileMe. Having seen the Cloud syncing service struggle with bugs since launch even Steve Jobs was forced to admit it was "not up to Apple's standards". He went on to declare "The MobileMe launch clearly demonstrates that we have more to learn about Internet services. And learn we will. The vision of MobileMe is both exciting and ambitious, and we will press on to make it a service we are all proud of by the end of this year." That was 2008.

Of course all is not lost. Apple discontinued sales of MobileMe last month and it seems a free service could be on its way soon, but it is the time lag between adroit purchases like Lala and services like MobileMe and their fruition that is most concerning. Yes concerning, but not surprising. You see Apple is in danger of slipping into the Microsoft way of doing things…
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Take a look at Microsoft Office. The productivity suite dominates its sector, but is coming under attack from cheaper, even free, Cloud based alternatives chiefly led by Google. Microsoft knows it should change so it made the token gesture of launching Office Web Apps, but it has yet to do much with the service since its success will undercut desktop Office's incredible profitability. Damned if it does, damned if it doesn't.

Now look at iTunes, it dominates its sector, but is coming under attack from cheaper, though not free, Cloud based alternatives – a Google streaming music service is expected shortly. Apple knows it should change so it bought Lala, but has yet to do much with the service since its success will undercut the more profitable iTunes download model. Damned if it does, damned if it doesn't.

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