Sony has today launched its new ‘Music Unlimited’ service in the United States, NZ and Australia priced at $10 per month and, despite earlier reports that the company was looking to withdraw from Apple’s iTunes Store, Business Insider is reporting that the company COO, Brandon Layden, has debunked that rumor (via MacStories). While it is unclear if the ‘Music Unlimited’ service would make it on to iOS devices as an app, due to the Apple 30% revenue restrictions, analysts will once again be wondering when Apple is intending on launching their own music streaming service.
Recently it emerged that Spotify, the popular unlimited music streaming service is also close to getting a launch in the USA, although anecdotal reports have suggested that the path to the launch has been difficult given music publishers’ loyalty to iTunes. While Sony is in a different position as it is, in itself, a music publisher, a launch of two major music streaming services in the Unites States will obviously impact upon the most popular online music source in the US today. i.e. iTunes. The question is, when will Apple be ready to launch a response?
Recent rumors have suggested that MobileMe is undergoing a revamp and that a core part of the changes will reflect a new approach to streaming music. Many expect that MobileMe consumers will be able to store all of their music online and access their music library wherever they are. However, while that is a cool concept, it is really nothing new. That’s what an iPod is for.
The issue for Apple lies in the fact that iTunes is already the biggest music retailer in the US and therefore they are probably not in such a hurry to launch an unlimited iTunes service. However, what we may see is the launch of an unlimited music service bundled together with the revamped MobileMe. While the cost of MobileMe is currently $99 a year, major changes could move that annual cost to tiered monthly subscriptions which, of course, would be managed through the new in-app subscription system that Apple is launching.
A tiered system would allow consumers to choose their level of service. Perhaps for $5 per month, users could have access to all of the major features of MobileMe, including storing their own purchased music online. Then, perhaps for an additional $5 per month, users could then have access to unlimited iTunes streaming. This may be optimistic pricing however, as an iTunes unlimited service would take a big bite out of Apple’s music sale profits.
It’s a matter that obviously requires a lot of thought.