Yes, you heard correctly: Apple is entering the Internet radio game. Companies such as Pandora, Last.fm and iHeartRadio will soon be competing with the company that brought you the iPod and the iTunes store. The deal is still under wraps, since Apple is still negotiating with record companies for music rights, but, according to inside sources, it’s all but a done deal. This should be good news to iPhone and iPad users.
Why Apple is entering a relatively small and crowded Internet radio market doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on the surface, but when you ponder it for a moment, you can almost see a legitimate case for it. Internet radio means you can stream the music you want to hear, and change genres with a swipe. It’s different than having to create a different playlist to suit your mood or desired listening choices. And what if you suddenly have a hankering to hear some Vivaldi, but your iTunes library is light on classical music? You can either buy Four Seasons from the iTunes store, or you can jump on Pandora and find an All Vivaldi, All the Time station and listen until your content, bored or asleep.
Because, really, how many people really want to pay $1 each for songs they may listen to once and never again? (Vivaldi can be an acquired taste for some, but for many, an affinity never develops). Apple picked up on that, and has decided the solution is to enter the market and satisfy its bottom line, er, customers.
Yes, I said it, it’s all about the Benjamins. Apple isn’t selling music they way they once were, and since they can’t beat Internet radio, they’re going to join it.
Now, a lot of talk is being bandied about regarding what Pandora, et al needs to do to compete with Apple. There is talk of a new platform, a better app experience, etc. But what do they really need to do? Nothing. Other than taking advantage of the new Snapdragon chipset to beef up the user experience, Pandora should just do what Pandora has been doing.
Let Apple try and unseat them. See what Apple’s got, and then, if need be, capitalize on that. But making changes where changes might not be necessary could spell disaster for companies that have been doing well up until now. And, of course, there is always the idea that people are creatures of habit. Sure, they might try the Apple Internet Radio (Core Radio, anyone?) but for the most part, people who have spent hours and days training an Internet radio app to play what they want to hear aren’t going to chuck all that hard work. They changed from iTunes to Internet radio because they wanted a more personal experience without the hassle of purchasing and choosing from a huge library. That’s not likely to change anytime soon.
It will be interesting to see what Apple brings to the table. Will they be successful? Of course. If Midas had a son, his name would be Mac. But it’s highly doubtful that Apple will topple the players who already have a foothold in the market. The game will get bigger, but it’s doubtful the rules will change.