Apple is planning on using its recent purchase of Lala to "reboot" iTunes into a Web-based service that would allow users to access their iTunes content anywhere from any device with a browser, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Citing various unnamed sources, the newspaper described a service that would fundamentally change what it means to own media away from physical copies to cloud computing-based digital copies.
Apple would, according to the report, leverage Lala's existing technologies and engineering talent to move iTunes to a browser-based online store and service, though the article did not address whether this would be in addition to or instead of the standalone software we know today as "iTunes."
As Apple relies on iTunes to manage iPods and iPhones, it would be surprising if the company were to do more than add a browser-based component to its iTunes empire, rather than replace it.
Some Lala executives are apparently being put into positions of authority at Apple, with one unnamed source telling the WSJ that, "It's our understanding that the Lala guys are going to be in very significant roles." No names or titles were specified, but Lala cofounder and Chairman Bill Nguyen was said to have been making phones calls to iTunes business partners and record labels along with Apple Vice President Eddy Cue.
The move to enable iTunes users to buy, manage, and listen to their iTunes content through a browser would represent a dramatic change for Apple. iTunes' success was built on company executives' oft-stated belief that consumers want to own, not rent, their music.
With that in mind, and assuming that the Journal's sources are correct, it is not clear at all on how much Apple will be adding to its existing services with this change, and how much will simply be a fundamental, take-it-or-leave-it change.
In their coverage, reporters Ethan Smith and Yukari Iwatani Kane wrote, "The proposed changes would represent a fundamental redefinition of what it means to own a song, movie or other piece of media -- shifting the emphasis from possession of a physical disc or digital file to the right to access content."
All that said, Apple's acquisition of Lala took place only a few days ago, and the Journal's sources stressed that these plans are in their early stages, and that they could change.