Nothing BEATS a good anti-trust investigation, eh, Apple?

FTC gets out microscope, ponders crawl up Cupertino's ass

The United States Federal Trade Commission is investigating Apple, again, following concerns that its to-be-relaunched Beats Music streaming service may gain an unfair advantage by exploiting the market dominance of Apple's iTunes store.

An inquiry by the antitrust G-men could interrupt a much touted launch of the Cupertino-based company's Beats music subscription service, which it is expected to flog with renewed vigour this summer.

A summer of streaming seems to be upon us. Apple's competitor Spotify recently managed to raise $350m in a pass-around of the wicker basket, while Jay-Z's Tidal is, well, that one's dead in the water.

It is understood that Apple has, in typical Beats style, cuddled up alongside various celebs for a new advertising campaign and for limited exclusive rights to music and partnerships.

Bloomberg Business cites music-industry executives with knowledge of the matter as saying FTC officials have discussed Apple's practices with more than one record label.

The inquiry is set to examine whether Apple's model will adversely affect the existing business of collaboration between music labels and other streaming services, "for example curtailing ad-supported music and pushing more songs into paid tiers of service at higher rates," according to an industry source.

Apple's iTunes store is credited with refocusing the music business around sales of songs through digital downloads. Online music spending reached $6.85 billion in 2013, and the digital and physical revenues for the industry are roughly equal on a global scale: however sales of downloads from sites such as iTunes fell 8 per cent, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Apple is no stranger to the FTC, having snitched on Google to the feds last year. As a search term, Apple Inc. returns literally thousands of hits on the FTC site.

Among other issues the FTC is also scrutinising the fruity folk over is HealthKit, which Apple are teaming up with IBM to push at elderly people abroad. This idea is being questioned in the US over privacy problems. ®

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