4 Key Questions for Apple About Lala

Some of us are a wee bit fixated on the fate of nifty music service Lala now that it's part of Apple. Peter Burroughs has a story in BusinessWeek with a hopeful-sounding headline: "Apple Will Let Google Continue Using Lala." It refers to the agreement betwee

n Google and Lala that puts links to free Lala music (and purchase options) in some of Google's music-related search results.

After reading Burroughs' story, I'm not so sure how hopeful to feel. Google's RJ Pittman told him that Apple and Google "are agreeing to continue to leave the service as is" and that Lala will "remain live for the forseeable future." But it's Apple that's going to determine Lala's future -- and Apple spokesman Steve Downling's only comment to Burroughs was that Apple doesn't comment on acquisitions.

So I'm left with all the same questions I've had since news of the acquisition broke.

How much (if any) of Lala will make its way into iTunes and/or other Apple services such as MobileMe? Lala lets you buy streaming only-songs for a dime apiece (and listen to them via an interface that already looks like iTunes in your browser); it gives you access to streaming versions of songs you possess in MP3 form; and it has some cool community features that let you peek at what your pals are listening to. A Lala-ized iTunes could be wonderful, but it's also possible that Apple bought Lala for its engineering talent, not its service.

Will the Lala site and service continue on? It's hard to believe that Apple would just leave it as it is. Over time, it's surely either going to get sucked into iTunes, or cease to exist.

Will Apple put Lala's impressive iPhone app on the iPhone App Store? ("Approve" doesn't feel like the right word when you're talking about a piece of software now owned by Apple.) It's not necessarily a terrible sign if it doesn't show up -- Apple may merely be so excited about the app that it's working on an Apple-ized version.

Will the Google deal continue? I hope so, but I won't be traumatized if it doesn't -- in part because Google has a similar arrangement with iLike.

Apple almost certainly isn't going to share any of its intentions for Lala-whatever happens will just happen. Building any of the service's capabilities into iTunes would take a while, so I'm not going to feel downright pessimistic until (A) any aspects of Lala in its current form go away, and /or (B) major new releases of iTunes and/or the iPhone arrive with no signs of Lala influence. In the short term, no news may well be good news...

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