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Apple Music isn't revolutionary, but it might help launch the next big thing

Michael Simon | July 3, 2015
Apple Music is hardly the world’s first streaming service. It might not even be the best. But it also doesn’t feel like a 1.0 product.

Consequently, Apple Music won't experience the same growing pains that iCloud has. Apple could have built a streaming service from the ground up--and I have no doubt the company toyed with such an idea--but it saw an opportunity with Beats to hit the ground running. With a solid foundation already in place, Apple can focus on the things that will set its music service apart instead of ironing out deep wrinkles or even convincing people of its value.

Look and listen

Few people will remember that iTunes wasn't a home-grown product either. The idea of a desktop mp3 player wasn't exactly a novel concept at the time of iTunes' release, but it wasn't nearly as ubiquitous as today's streaming services. When Apple bought SoundJam MP it was an under-the-radar purchase that barely made a ripple. Back in 2000, few people could see the future of digital music like Steve Jobs could--he wasn't just buying a desktop mp3 client, he was putting a down-payment on the future. 

With Beats, Apple made an equally large investment, paying a sizable sum to get into a game that is already teeming with major players. Apple Music won't be a slow build like iTunes was: The ecosystem is already in place, and Apple's biggest advantage over its competitors is the little things it can add to make the experience more seamless. Siri integration alone is reason enough for Spotify users to make the switch, and the excellent discovery features will surely keep people tuned in as well. 

But the killer component is the easy integration with your existing library, a feature that I suspect will be iOS-only. If Android users miss out on the iTunes Match feature, Apple Music loses some of its luster, and I suspect it's a ploy to woo Moto and Galaxy owners once the app lands (right around the time they start reading all those glowing reviews for the latest iPhone in the fall). 

Apple might have overpaid for Beats based on strict market value, but what it brings to the company is priceless. Buying Beats eliminated years of stumbles and hiccups, and puts Apple Music on an even plain with the best services out there. If it succeeds--and there's no reason to suspect it won't--I expect Apple to apply this business model to the other Internet services it offers, snatching up companies that do it right instead of trying to go it alone. It famously made a nine-figure offer to Dropbox back in the file storage service's early years, but Apple was a different company then. Steve Jobs was forever reluctant to buy established, big-name companies, and it's hard to imagine him signing off on a purchase as big as Beats. But today's Apple is far more aggressive, and has no problem with spending money to keep its customers happy.


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