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Apple close to launching cloud music service

Apple is close to announcing its long awaited cloud music service, and has signed up EMI Music already, according to reports in CNet

By PETER WHITE

Published: 26 May, 2011

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Apple is close to announcing its long awaited cloud music service, and has signed up EMI Music already, according to reports in CNet. Citing multiple sources, the newswire says that Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment are also close to agreements, which would then trigger the launch.

None of the partners is commenting of course, but there is pressure on Apple to make its move, given that Amazon has already jumped the gun and launched its cloud music storage and streaming functions for Android. Google also set out its stall at its I/O conference last week,

There has been intense speculation about a streamed version of iTunes since Apple acquired cloud music service Lala in 2009 for a rumored $85m and then shut down the offering – implying that the acquisition was made to gain engineering expertise. However, it has taken longer than expected for that cloud knowledge to be harnessed for a commercial system, allowing subscribers to store their music collections on Apple servers and then stream the tracks to connected devices such as iPhones and iPods.

Google and Amazon have, for now at least, got around licensing complexities with publishers by simply allowing users to store and stream existing collections in the cloud rather than purchase directly by that method, but all the majors will soon be engaged in difficult negotiations with the content owners. It seems that Apple may be the first to announce a cloud offering with major label support, and possibly with video too. According to CNet, Apple's licensing agreements give it the flexibility to offer features that Amazon and Google cannot for now, such as scanning users’ hard drives to determine which songs they own and then offering streamed access to master recordings (as Lala did).

Meanwhile, Apple may be winning its long standing arguments against Adobe Flash. Whereas Flash has been the default way to view web video, it will eventually give way to HTML5 – and in the interim, Apple’s iOS (which supports HTML5) has become the dominant platform for mobile video, driven by the firm’s grip on the emerging tablet segment.

According to a report from video monetization firm FreeWheel, which records data on more than 10bn different video views every quarter, iOS accounted for 80% of video views on mobile platforms in Q1. These views are divided between the iPhone and the iPod Touch (30% each) and the iPad (20%). The remaining 20% was mainly attributable to Android, with no other mobile OS achieving more than 1%.

As well as the popularity of the Apple devices themselves, the results show how they are more driven by video usage than many of their rivals. This usage profile, and Apple’s early leap into touchscreens suited to on-the-move viewing, have forced content owners and distributors to adapt their offerings for the Apple platform. Optimization for Android is happening but has been a more recent priority.

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