Apple is to launch an online music service, perhaps as early as next month, sources cited by the LA Times have claimed.
According to the sources, a new version of Apple's iTunes jukebox software will download tracks from the service which simplifies buying, almost certainlt using the 1-Click technology Apple has already licensed from Amazon.
Eschewing the MP3 format, Apple's service will be based on Dolby's AAC (Advanced Audio Coding not Codec, as the LA Times report mistakenly states) in order to tie each track to a specific Mac and thus prevent unauthorised duplication. Users will be able to copy tracks to an iPod, suggesting that an update to the music player's software is in the works too.
Apple's spin, relayed by the LA Times' over-enthusiastic and, we suspect, quasi-official deep throat, is that music executives are excited over how easy to use the new service is. The irony is that Apple has had such a move forced on it by an industry increasingly employing copy protection schemes, almost all of which support only PC playback. The major labels' online music sales sites are Windows only.
If the majors won't bring music to the Mac, Apple has to, or risk its platform looking increasingly unattractive as a digital media hub.
And at the same time, Apple builds for itself yet another revenue stream designed to exploit its user base, just as has with its .mac email service. Mac OS X is full of 'click here to buy' links that, as yet, Apple has not fully exploited.
Indeed, the music industry lack of interest in the Mac community actually provides Apple with a potential monopoly over online music sales to Mac users. The LA Times source claims the service will be "competitive", but where else can most Mac punters get music online?
Illegal file sharing remains a possibility, but copy-protected CDs and file-sharing poisoners may one day limit that option. ®
LA Times story (registration required)