by Miles Raymer
When Apple bought music-streaming service Lala in late 2009, people had lots of ideas about how Apple would fold the service into its market-dominating iTunes Music Store—improving the Genius music recommendation service, offering a stream-based iTunes to run parallel with the original flavor, et cetera. Since then Lala has been offline and Apple hasn't done anything with its acquisition, leading to another round of theorizing—some people think Apple bought Lala and shut it down just to be a music-industry bully.
Finally, though, it seems that Apple may be offering a music "locker" as part of its cloud-based MobileMe service, which is rumored to be getting a much-needed relaunch this spring. Warner has supposedly already signed on, and in the words of the Music Void's Wayne Rosso (author of the linked story), Universal and EMI are "more or less pushovers." This leaves only Sony out of the Big Four to convince, which could be a challenge. Sony is not a big fan of iTunes, and has in the past tried to get the other three to agree to a collective bailing on iTunes. Still, as Rosso points out, "the record industry is Steve Jobs' bitch." Sony might not have much of a choice.
The music industry is gambling heavily on streaming. Google's long-rumored music service will most likely be streaming based, and streaming services like Spotify have been hailed by industry pundits (who, remember, are mostly guessing) as potential saviors of the biz. If streaming is the way things go, Apple, whose iTunes enjoys a sizable sales lead over the entire rest of the digital-music retail industry combined, will want get in on the transition early.