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LaLa Shutter Fails To Send Shudders Through Tech World

Lala -- the cloud-based music-streaming service that Apple bought late last year -- is going bye-bye at the end of May. In its place, industry watchers are predicting that Apple will launch a cloud-based iTunes.com -- the mere implication of which has serious implications for the digital music business.

Citing unnamed sources, a Wall Street Journal story published in late January said Apple was planning to launch a Web-based version of iTunes as soon as June. "Tentatively called iTunes.com, the service would allow customers to buy music without going through the specialized iTunes program on computers and iPhones," it reported.

"Apple's decision to close Lala isn't much of a surprise, as Lala never found much of a foothold as a standalone music service," writes CNet's Media Maverick blog. "The real prize for Apple was the company's streaming technology ... Apparently, Apple is considering a plan to offer iTunes users the ability to store digital copies of their music and videos on the company's servers and then be given the ability to access their media via any Web-enabled device."

And it's about time, writes paidContent. "Against both the web and subscription rise, iTunes' a la carte reliance looks archaic and one-dimensional, tooled for a market that's plateaued."

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Earlier this year, former MP3.com head Michael Robertson laid out the broad implications of Apple's would-be cloud-based media strategy. In short, he wrote, "Their upcoming plans ... are positioning [Apple] to lead the digital music industry into a new era."



Upon the news of Lala's demise, TechCrunch asked: "Will Apple be the first company to turn online music subscription services into a sizable business?"

Perhaps, but Apple's path to subscription-based success isn't without its obstacles.

For one, "Lala's [music streaming] license was reportedly non-transferable, should the company be acquired," notes GigaOm. "Any new agreement [with the major labels] could involve a messy renegotiation in which Apple would make new concessions to the labels, as it did last year when variable pricing, DRM and bundling formats were in play."

Read the whole story at The Wall Street Journal et al. »

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