While it reversed its emphasis on physical albums versus digital singles, Lala always believed in conferring permanent ownership of music just as iTunes does. Even its idea of a websong, the 10-cent single that can only be streamed from its site, was intended to be permanent digital property, and in fact could be "upgraded" to a downloadable digital music file for the difference in price.
Lala could eventually have a strong impact on how iTunes customers discover and store music, Those familiar with Lala's history know that the company already allowed consumers with large music libraries to access to their songs from the Lala site without having to upload many of them. That would certainly be a complementary feature to add to MobileMe. And of course there was Lala's long-discussed iPhone app, designed for offering any songs consumers had stored on its service, as well as full samples of Lala's library songs over wireless connections.
But, again, this was all in the name of driving transactions, not streams. In
Lala offers Apple a ready-made, Web-based consolidation of personal libraries and sampled music.
contrast to iTunes, which is encased in an isolating layer of native code, Lala has woven itself into the fabric of Facebook, becoming the preferred music gifting service for the leading social network. Lala offers Apple a ready-made, Web-based consolidation of personal libraries and sampled music, but its business model -- selling music -- predates the Internet by decades.
As Apple steps up flirtation with the cloud, though, the question, though, is whether is whether single track sales will even last for decades more. Recently, mog.com
relaunched as an all-streaming service for $5 per month, a price that was used by Yahoo! Music and Napster to drive sampling. Napster even enabled limited free downloads at that price. But Mog may be the most pure Web-based music acccess company yet. Like Lala, it enables you to save songs in an online library, but doesn't even sell its own music, instead acting as an affiliate to Amazon.com.
And those kind of affiliate relationships may indeed help explain why Lala would up as part of Apple. With the PC manufacturer having such a strong presence in the smartphone market, Lala would have had to sell through iTunes on its iPhone app. Lala's technology can do a better job of leading consumers to the store, but Apple will continue to ring up the majority of the sales.
Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis for consumer technology at market research and analysis firm The NPD Group. Views expressed in Switched On are his own.