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Lane: The death of iTunes

BY JOE LANE | MAY 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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Last week, the most well-known brand in the world began closing a deal to purchase one of the fastest growing; Apple is close to purchasing Beats Electronics — maker of the ubiquitous headphones and operator of an up-and-coming music streaming service — for a whopping $3.2 billion.

Should Apple’s purchase be completed, it would have an instantaneous effect in a few major ways; first, Apple would become one of the biggest players in the music-streaming industry (its recently released “iTunes Radio” failed to capture much attention) and, second, it would make Dr. Dre the wealthiest rapper in history — the first rap billionaire, no less.

Something, however, is less obvious about the implications of this purchase: Apple admits it was wrong.

When iTunes was released in 2001, it began a music revolution that, accompanied by the iPod, made Apple a titan in the music industry and changed the way that people around the world listened to and stored their music.

The MP3 file format, which made it possible to have thousands of songs at your fingertips, was used by iTunes in making the largest online music database, from which millions of users could purchase music — legally — for the low price of 99 cents per song.

And although Apple’s music prices have since risen and other players in the digital music world have entered the market (Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, Beats, and others), Apple’s iTunes has remained one of the most influential and well-known brands in the music world.

When iTunes was introduced, Steve Jobs argued that as opposed to streaming music, purchasing music and building a library was an attractive feature for the music lovers of the 21st century. At the time, Jobs was right. Now, however, things have changed.

Sweden-based streaming service Spotify, for example, is rapidly gaining popularity, as it is one of the first mainstream streaming services available that provides free legal music, albeit riddled with advertisements. Where Spotify proved its worth in the music market was by offering $9.99 per month premium service — which allows the user to hear her or his music free-of-advertisements on any device with or without an Internet connection; that last piece is the twist of the knife in the goliath that is Apple.

Jobs’s argument was that streaming isn’t a valid option because it does not allow the listeners the opportunity to build (and subsequently show off) their immense music libraries — something that many listeners (Jobs argued) wanted to do. But with the features available from a premium subscription, Spotify users are not only able to develop truly impressive music libraries, but they are also able to do it at a much lower cost.

I, despite being a self-proclaimed Apple and Steve Jobs fan boy, switched to Spotify before coming to school this past fall.

With the potential purchase of Beats, Apple admits defeat; it says to people around the world that the great Steve Jobs was, in fact, wrong.

However, I believe that the realization that Jobs could have been wrong about something is the greatest thing to happen to Apple since its founder’s death.

When Jobs left Apple in 1985, the impact was immediate and obvious, simply because he left a company that was not prepared for life without him. Now, however, despite the initial drop in stock price after his death, it appears that Apple is ready for life without Jobs.


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