In December 2009, Apple bought Lala. On June 1st, 2010 Apple closed down the cloud-based Lala music service and no reasons were given by Apple. (Lala music subscribers should go to the old lala site location for more info.)
Lala used to sell streaming versions of a song for 10 cents. For that dime, you could stream those songs to a number of devices. You could also buy and download an MP3, and those prices were closer to what Apple charged.
For people who “owned” streaming content, Apple is converting that to credit on the iTunes store. Of course, this means that for every 10 songs you “owned” in streaming, you can buy one song on iTunes for download. If you bought the MP3 download, that will still work.
“In appreciation of your support,” reads a note on the Lala.com website, (it is only visible if you were a member of the site) “you will receive a credit in the amount of your Lala web song purchases for use on Apple’s iTunes Store.”
They will also convert any pre-purchased outstanding song credits as well.
So what is really up here? One has to ask why Apple bought them in the first place, and why shut them down so soon? I can think of two main reasons:
1). They did not like their pricing and wanted to shut them down. I think this highly unlikely, as there were not enough Lala users to impact Apple sales in iTunes. So I toss that concept out.
2). Apple plans to open their own cloud-based streaming service on iTunes in the near future and will use Lala’s technology as the foundation of this service. And this one I find highly likely. As Apple moves more and more to devices like iPad, iPhone, and touch, the more services in the cloud make sense (except for AT&T’s brain dead new data plan pricing, which will hurt this idea in the long run, so look for changes there too.)
Using a technology Lala had for song identification and uploading, one could, already (when the service was running) buy (for 10 cents each) or upload all their iTunes songs to Lala, creating a cloud-based mirror of their iTunes account, and have them available on ANY device that could stream content from the web. It was a great idea.
So now Apple has acquired and owns this technology that would enable everyone to duplicate their iTunes libraries to online cloud based servers, allowing iTunes users to access their music from a variety of web based devices, including Apple TV, iPads, iPhones and iPod touches, and also non-Apple devices as well, such as other smart phones, PCs and laptops. How cool would that be?
And while you can authorize 5 devices today to share you iTunes music accounts, you need Apple’s USB cables to move songs from computer to iPhone (for example) by syncing them together, and then only to 4 other devices.
But, if Apple uses the Lala technology to create a cloud-based music service, all devices could access the same web-based music collection with no syncing at all.
It has always surprised me that the MobileMe service did not encompass iTunes, and maybe this is a way to bring iTunes up-to-date with Apple’s MobileMe cloud based syncing and sharing? We can hope.
Keep your fingers crossed. This could be a very cool new technology for music, making your music available almost anywhere. In the long run, this will most likely eliminate the need to download the song at all. In the future, when “buying” a song from iTunes, you will simply enable it on the cloud, and all your devices will have it at the same time. Only when traveling where there is no internet will you actually need the songs on the device, and that case is ever becoming smaller and smaller.
Now, if we could just get AT&T to reverse their new data pricing plans, this might just work!