An article on the Bloomberg web site claims that Apple will be making some big changes to iTunes “so users can more seamlessly access and manage their music, videos and downloaded software apps across different Apple gadgets,” as well as new features for sharing music.
According to this report, Apple will allow users to more easily share songs. Bloomberg claims that “Apple has been negotiating with major record labels for rights that would let a user listen to a song sent to them from a friend for free.”
My guess is that this would not involve sending an actual file – as there is no DRM on music files, you can already do this, and I’m sure a lot of people do. I would think this would involve sending a link to a file on the iTunes Store, which the receiver of the link could then download for free. Or, this could simply be that when a user shares a link to a song, instead of the 90-second preview available on the iTunes Store, the user can listen to the entire song once.
This seems like an odd idea, but an interesting one. Since Apple and the labels know that music sans DRM is shared, this would at least get people to the iTunes Store, where they might buy more. But given the song-driven market of popular music today, it’s unlikely that someone who gets a free copy of, say, the latest Justin Bieber song would eventually buy the entire album. But Apple could use their “Complete My Album” feature with this sharing, in effect providing a discount to anyone who does buy an entire album. (With this feature, if you buy, say, one song today, then want to buy the rest of an album, you don’t pay for that first song a second time.)
Bloomberg also discusses better iCloud integration, but I’m not sure what that involves. iTunes Match, while an interesting comment, is flawed. For some users it works fairly well, but many users have problems with it. From corrupted files to missing album artwork, from play counts and last played dates not syncing to poor matching overall, this feature still feels like a beta.
The article ends with the suggestion that Apple launch a subscription service, but claims that a source said that Apple isn’t likely to offer such a service. It seems that this, eventually, is the way for Apple to go. Granted, they’ll sell less, but consumers will increasingly demand this type of service, especially on mobile phones. If Apple did offer a subscription service, they would probably wipe out many of the companies that offer these services now.
Personally, I hope that Apple improves the iTunes Store, and makes some deeper changes to iTunes, notably to support other file formats. Finally, I’d really like to see a server version of iTunes, but my guess is that this is not a priority for Apple.