REDMOND, WA (Hypebot) – One of music tech's most innovative players has slipped behind Steve Job's iron curtain.
Apple confirmed on Sunday that it had bought Lala. Sources close to the deal suggest a number of reasons for the purchase including Lala's bright engineers, its micro-payment system, and its music in the cloud technology.
Whatever the reasons behind Apple's purchase, it should be viewed through the lens of an increasingly consolidated digital music space, as well as, a broadening of Apple's influence on the music industry.
But while he admits the purchase shifts the competitive landscape, Topspin's Ian Rogers says that "at a very high level as a music fan this makes me very excited about the future iniquitousness of music". Rogers has strong praise for Lala's simple and shareable "in the cloud" home for music, as well as, it's take on streaming.
Should we be happy that Apple still cares about music?
Ian Rogers is, however, most excited that Apple isn't abandoning music. "I always thought Apple would move up-market away from music, into movies and living room apps in general", Rogers writes on his Fistfulayen blog. "But it appears they are going to move up-market "with" music…the entrepreneur and music business person in me is worried about Apple’s dominance and intends to work with Apple to make sure the future of music isn’t available solely via Apple hardware and services. But the music fan in me is excited to think about a beautiful experience in my living room and car where all music is available all the time and easy to share legally, without syncing and managing files."
Does Apple ever play nice?
The problem with Ian's argument isn't that Apple doesn't "work with" anybody. Can anyone remember the last time that Apple played nice a minute before the marketplace forced it to? How long was it between Steve Job's heralded declaration that all music should be free of copy protection and when the majority of iTunes tracks were sold without DRM? Who told artists that album only sales were not an option and dragged their feet on variable pricing?
With its purchase of Lala, Apple has just taken one of the more innovative companies in music tech and put it and its bright creators behind its iron curtain. What happens next will only benefit Apple 1st, the consumer 2nd and music and the music industry a very distant 3rd. What happens next will also sometimes delight the fan. But think about how much more could have been created if the curtain had never been drawn or if Google or Facebook were Lala's new owner. – Bruce Houghton