Monday, December 14, 2009

Apple to re-engineer iTunes?

Potentially good news for iTunes customers -- last week WSJ reported that Apple is considering going to a web-based platform for iTunes. Confession: I received an iTunes gift certificate from my staff last year when I was in the hospital. My immediate thought -- I will never use this; they really should not have bothered. Trying to avoid any deadweight loss, I dutifully downloaded iTunes and made a purchase or two of things I was about to buy anyway. Then I got it -- no need to buy an entire album, no need to produce more paper and plastic, plus instant gratification (even Amazon takes at least overnight). I ended up burning through the gift quickly and now run a decent monthly tab while in the process discovering groups like Death Cab for Cutie, Kings of Leon and Portishead.

My problem, however, is that I have bought music on three different computers and it is not easy to keep all the selections synced with each other and the iPhone I purchased about eight months after getting iTunes. Why, I kept asking myself, haven't they figured out how to use the cloud to fix this? Now that Apple has purchased La La Media, which runs a web-based streaming audio business, service is likely to improve.

One would think that making customers happier with better service is totally noncontroversial. However, some antitrust economists and lawyers are already making noises about the anticompetitive consequences of iTunes gaining a larger market share of online music distribution services.

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