Apple has purchased a little known digital music service provider, Lala, in a move that many are seeing as a bid by the consumer & entertainment giant to close in on the growing threat of online streaming music websites like Spotify.
The Swedish startup has already shown some promising features with the addition in October 2009 of an Offline mode together with the unlimited tracks option for £10 per month.
Lala provided its US-based audience with access to up to eight million songs which could be played once. It then allowed its users to acquire the permission to stream any song for as little as 10 cents (6p) per song through a special arrangement with music labels.
Alternatively, Lala users could download songs for as little as 89c, less than on Apple's iTunes plus the 10c paid towards a stream counts as a down payment. The songs are in MP3 format which means that they are devoid of any digital rights management system.
But Lala's main appeal was its ability to stream entire music collections and make them playable anywhere on the web for zilch using its Music Mover functionality.
This, analysts suspect, is why Apple has purchased Lala, which could prompt a move soon to a cloud-based iTunes which relies on subscriptions rather than on one-off purchases.
This could potentially eliminate the threat of piracy, allow Apple to offer other services (television, movies, apps) and make the concept of knowingly downloading content quasi obsolete. That would be the biggest thing achieved by iTunes since its launch in 2003.