WSJ: Apple to Use Lala to “Reboot” iTunes Into Web-Based Service

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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.

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Lee Dronick

I am wondering about security. I think that that it may be a way in for someone other than the authorized user.

Bryan Chaffin

I should think that were Apple to do this that the product that saw the light of day would have any such issues addressed.

Lee Dronick

Your probably right Bryan. Apple doesn’t seem to design these things in a careless manner.

Bryan Chaffin

As I mentioned recently in a podcast, I’m often asked about Apple rumors by friends, family, and acquaintances. A lot of those question about the iPhone and more recently the tablet have centered around reactionary doubts, concerns, and “I don’t see how [insert various and sundry comments].”

My mantra since the iPod’s release has often been that I wasn’t sure how Apple would address such an issue or concern, but that if the product sees the light of day, they likely will have found a way to do so.

It all comes back to that philosophy of being almost as proud of the products they reject as the products they ship.

Computer scientist

Lala has nothing to do with cloud computing.

Bryan Chaffin

Lala has nothing to do with cloud computing.

Except that it has everything to do with cloud computing.  Selling Web songs that are then served through the browser and are not downloaded, and scanning your drive for songs you already own and then allowing you to listen to those songs through the same browser-based interface (matching your library to the songs served by the service) are both precisely what cloud computing is about.

Ben Hildrew

Lala has nothing to do with cloud computing.

I couldn’t agree more. Hosting and streaming music on a website or uploading files from your computer to online storage is not cloud computing. They don’t do any on-the-fly computations.

Bryan Chaffin

Hosting and streaming music is one of the very first examples of practical cloud computing. The same thing is true for such things as browser-based e-mail. It’s not rocket-science cloud computing, but both cases were important first steps on the evolutionary ride towards cloud computing.

As for your other point, Ben, I think you have it exactly wrong: Lala scans your hard drive and matches your library to those of your songs in the company’s catalog of songs. It’s not uploading them from your drive at all.  Lala’s point was to make it easy to listen to your entire library from the same source as your Web-only purchases, Lala’s player.  That, they hoped, would result in customers buying more Web-only songs.

So, this turns your entire music catalog - including songs you buy elsewhere or rip from CDs - into a browser-accessed and managed listening solution served entirely from Lala’s servers.

That is, as I understand it, the very definition of cloud computing.

So, the Journal‘s point, based on industry sources, is that Apple wants to leverage those technologies (and Lala’s engineers who have experience in this area) to turn iTunes into a a true cloud-computing service.

I should think that Apple’s end-goal will be far bigger and grander than Lala’s existing business model.

Pablo Sorokin

Guys, it might not be the technology after all…


I could upload my music to the Music Folder on my iDisk. I would then have access to it -  anywhere, and from any device with a browser. I don’t need Lala. But if my only copy was on my iDisk I might be Gaga.

The physical security of music I’ve ripped or downloaded is my responsibility. But music I buy, but don’t keep,  such as “web-only purchases” is a different matter.  Keeping such music secure is not, and cannot be, my responsibility.

I’m not comfortable with buying music and not having any control over its physical well-being.  I wouldn’t trust my neighbour with my collection of 12-inch Albums. Why would I trust Lala or Apple, or anyone else with my collection of digital music?

There will be a “cloudburst” one day.


I shall not speculate if Apple goes cloud or not but they should find a name less stupid than Azure (clear, cloudless sky chosen by M$): Nimbus, Stratus, Cirrus, Cumulus or combination thereof…

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