iTunes has its weaknesses, but also its strengths--as the spine of the iPhone-iPad-iPod ecosystem it's a powerful piece of software. Though it's been through many iterations, one thing remains on everyone's "want" list and Apple's "not yet" list: The ability to stream your music from your computer to the iPhone, without needing to wire the two together. mSpot now lets you do this.
The company's iPhone app went live today, dramatically expanding the mSpot service which already streams music through the cloud to smartphones, PCs, and Internet TVs. It's a partially free service that's already garnered a lot of media attention (including from us, when it launched back in June), and over a million downloads to Android phones. mSpot works by effectively hosting your iTunes library in its own servers--there's a 2GB slot available for free, and 40GBs will cost you $4 per month. Once you've uploaded your library, mSpot's system streams the content on demand to any compatible device that's linked to your mSpot account.
While that was already a very powerful solution, the addition of the iPhone to the mSpot stable is incredibly significant given the prominence of the iPhone in the smartphone market, and the fact that iTunes is leading digital music sales but won't let you stream them. This fact isn't missed by mSpot's CEO Daren Tsui in the press release, as he notes the move means mSpot is "giving you the 'next generation' iTunes experience" and adding "listening to your music on multiple devices is now truly easy; it doesn't require manual syncing and troublesome cords."
Will Apple take a leaf out of mSpot's book and actually use that huge (and expanding) new data center in North Carolina for something exactly like this? Soon? Everyone's hoping so, since it makes sense in a large number of ways and would add significantly more vavavoom to the iTunes experience than the poorly received Ping social networking add-on. One sticking point for Apple is apparently the music labels themselves--they're content to license Apple to sell you copies based on a download business model, but are seemingly reluctant to cede control over streaming licenses to Apple without a fight. Google is planning something similar with its iTunes challenger Google Music, and is now reportedly ready to "write huge checks" to pay the labels for permissions to perform a similar cloud-based music "locker" streaming solution to mSpot, and to what we presume iTunes.com may be like.
With rich solutions like Rhapsody already in place, which lets users stream content they don't even own (instead they're "renting" it) from the cloud--and big names like Spotify en-route to the U.S. too--the digital music streaming space is getting ever more complex. Maybe small players like mSpot will have enough time to steal marketshare, while the bigger players fight with the record labels.
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