Apple acquires Lala.com, but why?

Apple acquires Lala.com, but why?

For those of you who follow tech news you’ve likely heard about Apple’s acquisition of Lala.com, a service with a tag line of “All the music you could ever want, playable in a web browser”. There’s been much speculation around their reasoning for the acquisition and while there’s been no official statement from Apple regarding the deal I think there have been some pretty strong hints dropped in Apple’s recent product features.
iTunes, meet Mobile Me
First it helps to look at what Lala.com has been offering to users, the ability to sync their music libraries onto Lala and then stream that music to any web browser from any computer, just by logging in. Right away this suggests to me that Apple is looking for a new feature to boost the feature set of it’s highly criticized Mobile Me service. Mobile Me, among other features, is a service that gives registered users the ability to work with their iLife files through a web-based interface. Sharing your iPhoto images, uploading your video creations from iMovie, etc. Apple has said publicly that it is planning new features for Mobile Me and this seems like a perfect fit considering iTunes is technically part of the iLife suite.
But that’s not all…
A subscription-based music/video service?
In addition to online music library distribution, Lala.com also offers the ability to “purchase” songs for unlimited playback for $0.10 per track. Of course you can’t download it for that price, it’s $0.79 to purchase an MP3 of the same song. Apple of course offers a very similar service with their iTunes Store… minus the subscription based service. Many speculators take this as a sign that Apple is planning to offer a subscription service for iTunes, which also seems possible despite Apple’s statements to the contrary in the past. But there are some technical issues this could address as well, such as their movie rental service.
As it stands, when you rent a movie from iTunes you have to physically download that video to your hard drive in order to watch it completely. Yes, it will stream once the download has started, but the entire video file must be downloaded in order to finish the movie only to be deleted once your rental period has expired. What if they could stream that rented video from the cloud to your device without ever having to transfer the 1GB+ video file to your machine? Even the experience of purchasing movies from Apple TV could be improved if you had the option to store the movie on the cloud instead of downloading it that already full hard drive on your computer.
In the news recently there have been reports of Apple pitching a subscription-based service to some of the television networks. This platform also seems like a great solution for an online television subscription service…
A few dropped hints
There have also been a few product features here lately that hint that Apple is moving in the direction of a media center or server to client relationship with some of its products. Apple TV most notably has the ability to stream content from your iTunes library to your television without having to physically transfer large video files from your host computer to the Apple TV. And because of the prices of Solid State Drive technology Apple is unable to increase hard drive capacities on its flash-based devices, such as the iPhone and most of the iPod line, users are unable to transfer their large music and video libraries onto these devices.
So what would a service like Lala.com do to remedy this problem? They provide the storage and stream the content to your device over your internet connection (or mobile network). So now instead of selecting a subset of your music library to import onto your iPhone you simply sync your iTunes library data with this new service and instantly have access to all of your music instantly. And it wouldn’t stop at iPhones and iPods either, you can bet this service would be hugely popular for media center products like the Apple TV who’s hard drive is much too small for the average digital media collection. Many folks who’ve gone DVD-less are filling 1TB+ drives so quickly that most storage solutions aren’t large enough, even their home PC.  It’s a perfect example of cloud computing and truly a great idea if they’re looking to add value to Mobile Me.

Some imagery provided by Unsplash.
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