Friday, April 13, 2007

An Apple a Day?

Rumors are popping up again that Apple could move into the subscription music business. I don't know if there is any validity in this, or whether it is just a clever ruse by Intent MediaWorks' CEO to get some press coverage, but either way it's interesting.

Media Biz Apple changes its iTune? «: "Les Ottolenghi, CEO of INTENT MediaWorks, a digital distribution system that works with peer-to-peer networks, said he’s had meetings with people from Apple and he believes the company will announce a subscription service for iTunes within the next six months. “I think Apple is seriously considering a subscription offering right now even though they will probably tell you otherwise,” he said. Spokespeople for Apple were not immediately available for comment."

When this rumor first surfaced a couple of years ago, the whispers were that it would be really hard for Apple to pull off without a major change to their iPod hardware. One of key components of a portable subscription plan is that the hardware must have a secure clock to enforce the business rules (so that you have to keep paying in order to keep listening). The word was that the iPods of a couple generations ago didn't have the secure clock, so a subscription plan from Apple at that time would force all users to upgrade their hardware. Now, a couple of years - and Nano and Shuffle models - later the boys and girls from Cupertino have had time to slowly add the required hardware components to their current product line that this could now be a possibility without alienating their entire customer base. After all, everyone has already upgraded themselves and if they haven't, isn't it just about time?

Why would they even consider it now? Well, subscription services keep you locked into a specific ecosystem - something Apple may be looking for again considering EMI's move (and the other majors possibly following) into unprotected MP3s breaks their existing lock and key of Fairplay protected tracks. Indubitably, it would be pretty cool if the iPhone rolled in conjunction with a subscription service - which by definition supports "sharing" with other subscribers. So, it's feasible that one iPhone user could "beam" tracks to another - and more.

I know lately all I do is speculate about what Apple may be up to, but given their history, when June 11th rolls around there will be far more to the story than just "iPhone now available". Mark my words.

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