Apple’s deals with major music labels will not be a factor in the cloud player competitions
TechCrunch (among others) has been drooling over Apple starting to sign licensing deals with some of the major music labels for their inevitable (and, from the looks of it, coming soon) cloud music player/storage, finally making good on their purchase of the much-missed Lala.
The standard line is that, because Apple is succeeding where both Amazon and Google failed in getting the major labels, that they’ll beat their competitors handily. But what that assumption misses is that success in this area will have nothing to do with major labels. It will only have to do with the quality of the product. Now, Apple has a reputation for turning our quality products, so there’s no reason to believe that they won’t have a better product, but the deals with the music labels will be a minor factor into the quality of the product they’re able to turn out.
TechCrunch keeps mentioning how the agreements with the labels means that Apple will be able to provide a product that won’t require the user to spend weeks (or even months) uploading their music libraries to the cloud, saying that Lala was able to do that. But if they were able to do that, the feature wasn’t there when I joined Lala, because if took several months of uploading for me to get my library to the cloud. And even when I did, I only turned to the cloud player when I really wanted to listen to something that I didn’t have on my iPod. Which happened rarely, partly because what I want to listen to when I’m out is usually on my iPod, and partly because Lala’s cloud player was usable, but slow.
Lala’s greatness was in the ability to listen to full albums and not just 30 or 90 second samples without purchasing them. If Apple’s deals with the major labels allow them to do that, then that will be a huge advantage for them. But they haven’t done that in the iTunes store, and there were reports that Lala was losing money because of that face when they were purchased by Apple, so unless Apple has figured out a way to recreate that feature from Lala (and make money at it), they’re not going to have too much of a leg up on Amazon.
Even if Apple’s deals with the labels means that the uploading process is a lot faster, it’s still going to depend on the usability (and affordability) of the player itself that determines it’s success, and there’s no point in guessing whether they’ll be able to do that or not until we’ve seen their actual product.