since we're all dreaming about new apple products... // 12 Jan 2010

So what if on January 27th Apple announced that the iTunes and Lala teams have been merged, and have been hard at work on some exciting new things for online music.

  • Introducing iTunes.com. The iTunes experience is now extended out from the client out to the web, where tools for media discovery, sharing and browsing feel more natural. They demo Facebook and Twitter integration.

  • If you were a Lala user, welcome! You can now sign in to Lala with your iTMS credentials. If you have an existing Lala account, you can merge that with your iTunes account. The standalone Lala downloader / uploader is now just part of iTunes, no need for a separate application.

  • All of your music is now available in the cloud. iTunes will now scan your library and make everything you own available to you for streaming on demand from anywhere online. This process is now integrated with the "Update Genius" process, and happens in the background, automatically.

  • Introducing Genius Radio. Heralded as a "new way to discover music," Apple launches personalized online music radio that is clearly "inspired by" Pandora. But instead of being based on the Music Genome Project, it's built on top of Genius Playlists; it learns from the music you listen to in iTunes, your iPod or your iPhone.

  • You can stream your library to your iPhone or iPod Touch. Lala's long-awaited iPhone / iPod Touch app finally ships, delivered as an update to the default iPod app. You can now stream music from your library to your device anywhere. It's limited to wifi only (so as not to further overload AT&T's network), but deploys intelligent caching (your own local Genius Radio station?) to give you access to the tracks you're loving lately.

  • Today music; tomorrow everything. At launch iTunes.com will support buying, discovering and enjoying music, but eventually it will be the place where you discover and enjoy all types of digital content.

Which would be the perfect place to transition to, say, the introduction of a tablet-like product.

Two obvious bugs in this vision.

First, they already have iTunes; why shift to the web? I think Apple's been surprised and caught a little bit off guard with the rapid spread of the social web. (Remember the Twitter acquisition rumors? And why do you think they bought Lala?) In the short term, the browser is a more natural way for them to hook into that ecosystem than trying to bridge the web experience with the iTunes experience. And while Apple might not interested in delivering a Chome OS-style web only future, I think they're smart about the netbook market and what it signals about the long term trend of personal computing from locally-installed client software to well-featured apps in the cloud.

Second bug: Flash. It's probably a bit too early for them to commit fully to an HTML5 implementation of streaming audio and video, but it's not too hard to imagine a Safari 4.x (for Macs, Windows and Apple mobile devices) that supports streaming of protected content to the browser based on iTunes music store credentials. So Flash in the near term, HTML5 in the long term.