Apple bites into streaming music

WAXING LYRICAL: Apple's senior vice-president of Internet software and services, Eddy Cue, speaking about Apple Music in San Francisco on Monday.


    Jun 10, 2015

    Apple bites into streaming music


    APPLE on Monday launched a streaming music service that may not differ dramatically from its competitors but comes with the iPhone-maker's deep music roots, global brand and hundreds of millions of iTunes customers.

    The new Apple Music - which could be a powerful rival to online services such as Spotify, Pandora and Jay Z's fledgling Tidal - will be launched on June 30 in 100 countries, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP). In the United States, it costs US$9.99 (S$13.50) a month.

    It is understood that Apple Music will be available in Singapore from June 30, but local pricing will be released closer to the date, The Straits Times reported.

    It will initially be available to consumers with Apple devices. But the service will also be available on Apple TV and Android smartphones later this year.

    The Android move is a shift for Apple, which aims to attract customers from the rival mobile system dominant around the world.

    "This will be the first Apple-branded app or service to reach Android, and is a strategic shift for Apple in its approach to the main rival smartphone platform," said IHS Technology's head of mobile analysis, Ian Fogg.

    Apple has traditionally limited popular services or content to its own devices, keeping people in its "ecosystem" and promoting sales of its hardware.

    Opening Apple Music to rival mobile phones or tablets could signal that the iconic company is out to create a standalone platform to dominate the way music is listened to in the age of streaming digital content, according to analysts.

    Chief executive Tim Cook announced Apple Music on Monday, boasting that it "will change the way you experience music forever".

    Apple's push into the streaming business will likely alter the dynamics of how consumers listen to music, as the music industry grapples with declines in song downloads and tries to figure out new ways to get people to pay for music.

    The company shook up the sector more than a decade ago with its iTunes digital music store.

    "Apple comes late to the music streaming business, due in part to Steve Jobs' refusal to believe that music subscription services would ever work," said James McQuivey at Forrester Research.

    "But the writing is on the wall: Digital downloads don't make sense for consumers that are connected wherever they go."

    He added that Apple Music may succeed because it can build its new music service into the hundreds of millions of devices already in people's hands.

    In a double threat, the success of iTunes since its launch in 2003 has enabled the California-based company to build strong ties with musicians and recording labels.

    "None of the other technology companies quite get to this level," Forrester analyst Frank Gillett told AFP after the keynote.

    Offering few surprises in addition to what had been expected - some details on Apple Music were leaked earlier - Apple shares closed down less than 1 per cent at US$127.80, reported Reuters.

    "The only thing that is going to move Apple stock is iPhone sales and there wasn't enough news to be a mover in profitability," said Michael Yoshikami, CEO of Destination Wealth Management in Walnut Creek, California.

    The unveiling of the service kicked off the weeklong Worldwide Developers Conference.

    Apple introduced it with clips and live appearances by stars like Drake and up-and-comer The Weeknd. Legendary music industry figure Jimmy Iovine, who came to the company as part of its acquisition of Beats, took the stage to unveil details of the new service.

    Apple Music will enable artists to share songs directly with fans, includes a global 24/7 radio station named Beats 1 and streams music from the entire iTunes catalogue.

    However, it is understood that the Beats 1 radio station will not be streamed in Singapore, The Straits Times said.

    Apple Music's US$9.99 monthly price takes effect after a three-month free subscription period. The firm is also offering what it calls a "family plan" at US$14.99 a month for up to six family members.

    On Monday, Apple also announced an upgraded operating system for the Apple watch that will let developers create speedier "native" apps that rely less on the iPhone.

    The success of Mr Cook's first new product, the watch, will likely hinge on a compelling collection of apps. But early apps for the timepiece have been tied to the iPhone, placing limits on what developers can do.

    "This will be a big deal in creating a much more useful set of apps for the watch," said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research, explaining that apps did not always run smoothly when tethered to the iPhone. "Watch apps could feel slow and unresponsive at times."

    Apple also disclosed that the next version of the software that powers iPhones and iPads, called iOS 9, will be out in the next quarter.