Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The beat goes on

Yesterday Apple revealed their long awaited entry into the streaming music field. They were able to do this quickly because of the acquisition of Beats last year, and the systems and intellectual property that came with that purchase. Considering that the music reveal was pretty much the only big news out of a pretty benign developer keynote, I'll take a few moments to talk about what I think about it.

Apple was perhaps the defining company in the music revolution of the past 20 years. With the introduction of the iPod that revolutionized portable music, to the creation of the iTunes store and the eventual death of DRM, Apple has been at the forefront of digital music. This leadership comes with high expectations to continue to lead, and so many people have long questioned Apple not getting into the streaming music business quicker.

For the past few years new companies have come forth to lead the change in the streaming music evolution. From Pandora and its ability to create unique stations for listening, to Spotify and it's vast collection of listen-on-demand music, streaming music has become the way that many people interact with digital music. In particular, Spotify is considered the market leader in this space, giving people access to a vast collection of 30 million songs. Needless to say, they were the biggest target that Apple needed to address yesterday.

What Apple revealed certainly addressed the direct competition from Spotify, but they also tried to revive a long dead product from before it's time. Quite a few years ago in 2010, Apple tried to create a music social network called Ping. It was nicely designed, and allowed for artists to connect to fans in new ways. But, it was pretty much a failure. It wasn't accessible to people outside of the iTunes app, and it lacked the support it needed with integration to other social networks, to really take off.

This time around, the landscape is different. Apple's Connect service will bring much of what Ping was supposed to be to the new Apple Music service. It is also targeted at indie artists as a way to connect with their users. Hopefully, Apple is smarter this time around and will create much deeper ways to integrate than simply through the Apple Music app.

That brings up a point that I found the most surprising of the day, the eventual launch of Apple Music on Android devices. Apple is finally learning from Google and Microsoft, that sometimes you need to be everywhere, even on your competitors devices. I think that the inclusion of a new Android app, as well as the Windows apps that will undoubtedly work on both desktop and phone, will help bring Apple Music a lot further than it could go just on Apple hardware.

I'm looking forward to where Apple takes its new music service. I've been an iTunes user for a long, long time, but I haven't committed to any particular streaming service. Perhaps when I get to play with Apple's new service it will change my mind.