Apple’s ‘iRadio’ streaming music service: rumor roundup


The Apple Inc. logo is seen in the lobby of New York City's flagship Apple store in this Jan. 18, 2011 file photo. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

While much of the attention on Apple this week is focused on its big e-book antitrust trial, there also has been speculation that the company will finally launch a Pandora-like streaming service at its major developers conference next week.

Rumors about streaming music have been dogging Apple for years. Currently the company allows users to access their music online through iTunes in the Cloud, but doesn’t offer a service that lets users listen to music without downloading songs to their devices.

Apple hasn’t hinted that it will make any kind of music announcement next week. But if it jumps into the mix, the company will face competition from services such as Pandora, Spotify, Rdio and — most recently — a subscription service from Google. Here’s a look at what people are saying about what a new service from Apple, nicknamed “iRadio” in the tech media, in keeping with Apple’s naming scheme, might look like.

When will we see it?: Apple’s major Worldwide Developers Conference is next week. While we already are expecting updated — perhaps drastically updated — overhauls of Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems, there also is some expectation about a music announcement.

There is some precedence for this since Apple’s last major cloud music announcement — iTunes in the Cloud — came at WWDC 2011. Bloomberg reports that even if we do see a glimpse of the service next week, it probably won’t be available for consumers until later this year.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Apple is moving quickly to lock down agreements with major music labels and recently secured the streaming rights to Warner Music Group’s catalog of songs.

What will it look like?: There are two ways to listen to streaming music right now: services that let you look up specific songs, and those that generate stations based on music you say you like.

Reports have indicated that Apple’s service will be more in line with the second, radio-like model, similar to Pandora — which saw its stock drop 11 percent in Monday trading.

According to a Bloomberg report, the services will be “tightly integrated” with iTunes, so that users can easily buy a song they hear on the service, which could make an Apple partnership more attractive to studios. The report also said that Apple has reached agreements with Universal Music Group labels in addition to Warner Music Group.

CNET reported that the service could have some features that distinguish it from Pandora, however, such as the ability to rewind songs.

Will it have ads?: Reports indicate that this service will have advertisements — in fact, Bloomberg reports that Apple’s changing its advertising focus to support the music service.

The deal Apple’s proposed to labels, the CNET report said, offers studios a much greater share of the ad revenue than Pandora does, making it more attractive to them.

Free versions of Pandora and Spotify both support their offerings through ads. Google surprised many industry watchers by announcing last month that its Google Music All Access service would not have a free, ad-supported option, but would cost $7.99 per month.

Related stories:

Amid reports of new Apple streaming music service, antitrust violation may be obstacle

Apple e-book trial begins with focus on Jobs’s role

Apple e-book trial: 5 things to watch for

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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