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(Image courtesy of CNET News)
When Apple consumed the popular Lala music service last December, many expected a swift transition that would finally bring iTunes into the cloud. With the Lala service shut down back in May, the service seemed more imminent than ever, and yet still we have nothing. So what’s going on?
CNET News is reporting that Apple’s plans for Lala remain cloudier than ever, and not in a necessarily good way. It’s a given that Lala’s technology is a natural fit with Apple’s own iTunes, where a cloud-based service scans your hard drive for existing music libraries and then enables the user to play back the same songs from a server over a web-connected device like the iPhone.
Eight months after the Lala acquisition, it seems as if Apple hasn’t gotten very far with the plans, and recently told the anxious top four music labels that any service launched in the near term would be “modest in scope” and not as feature-laden as initially outlined, according to CNET sources. The holdup appears to be negotiations over licensing deals needed to distribute music from the cloud.
Another snafu would seem to be that Apple has had the Lala team working on “an undisclosed video feature” instead of the music service they’re used to. Eddy Cue, the Apple manager who runs the company’s Internet division, apparently “took a long time to specify what he wanted from the Lala guys,” which only made things move slower yet.
There seems to be further confusion as to what role Lala’s executives will play in any new Apple service. Founder Bill Nguyen is notoriously outspoken in the press, which certainly doesn’t mix well with Apple’s culture of secrecy. According to two music industry sources, one of Lala’s four founding members has already left Apple, casting further doubt that anything will be ready to go soon.
The only good news appears to be that Apple may be focusing more of its energy on a cloud-based video service, which could include “digital shelves” for iTunes so users can store their movies, TV shows and other media on Apple’s servers and access it anywhere they have an Internet connection, from any device. It’s widely believed that the company’s huge server farm being built in North Carolina is a key component of that strategy, and is due to be completed by year’s end.
Given that Apple didn’t double the maximum storage capacity of this year’s iPhone 4 as they have with each prior model -- even though the device now shoots 720p HD video -- it could be that Apple has a plan to keep the onboard storage of their iOS devices modest moving forward, while giving users ample storage space in the cloud to share their creations with the world. One thing is for sure: We’re still waiting.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter