Something pretty big is coming out of Cupertino next month. No, it’s not just a new version of iOS–that’s now an annual expectation at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Rather, with that software update, Apple will reportedly (and finally) attempt to tackle something Steve Jobs wouldn’t even give a chance: a streaming-music subscription service. And in anticipation of the launch, it’s clearly tidying the place up a bit.
Today, the company pushed out the iOS 8.4 beta 3, which features some new additions to the Music app. It’s a relatively minor refresh, but changes in the UI and functionality of the app may provide clues about what to expect at the WWDC in June.
The new Music app appearing in the beta releases carries no overt mention of a streaming service, but instead offers a new look, a new persistent mini-player, new playlist features and easier access to iTunes Radio. The betas appear to be helping refine and zap bugs in this service, and theirs a presumption that in a release update, we’ll see the streaming services housed within the Music app alongside local libraries and iTunes Radio as well.
As is typically the case with Apple product launches, little is known about Apple’s new streaming service, beyond rumors and leaks. Built atop the technical guts and music-industry clout of Beats Music, the new service will reportedly be rebranded to align more closely with iTunes.
Whatever the details, the launch of Apple’s new service could hardly be a bigger deal for the digital music market. It will take aim directly at Spotify, using Apple’s massive reach to try and coax some of that company’s 60 million users away. Of course, others have tried to play this game: Google now has two different music subscription services, and Jay Z famously bought his own to try and compete with a more artist-friendly strategy.
But with its huge iOS install base (and the new service’s presumably tight integration) and long-established brand credibility in the music space, Apple is easily the most formidable competitor to jump into the crowded market dominated by Spotify. If anyone has a chance of dethroning Spotify, it’s Apple.
At the same time, plenty of people predicted that iTunes Radio would mean the end of Pandora, but it hasn’t played out that way so far. Apple may be enormous, but success in this hotly contested market still depends on how things are executed.