updated 10:15 am EDT, Fri October 8, 2010
Tip has Apple revisiting iTunes subscription idea
Apple is considering going back on its longstanding insistence on having only pay-per-track songs with discussion of a subscription iTunes service, a rumor asserted on Friday. The company's iTunes VP Eddy Cue has reportedly been talking to music labels about a service that could run between $10 and $15. It would reportedly be an unlimited service, but the New York Post contacts implied that there might be tiers based on how long content would be accessible or how far-reaching the service might be.
It's implied the business model might follow that of Microsoft's Zune Pass. In that model, users always have access to the majority of the Zune Marketplace catalog but get 10 permanent MP3 downloads every month so that they don't lose their entire libraries if they stop paying.
Progress on the deal wasn't mentioned, but one music label executive said the groups were supportive of the idea as a way of sparking sales. Nielsen recently warned that digital music had leveled out even while CD sales were dropping, a possible hint that some users weren't as content with the current model.
Apple as expected has opted not to comment.
The iPhone maker has long opposed the idea of subscription services. When introducing the iTunes Store in 2003, CEO Steve Jobs stressed his belief that listeners wanted to own music, not "rent" it. His view has for a long period been validated by the performance of competitors like Napster and Rhapsody that have focused on subscriptions first and have largely failed to expand.
A change of heart wouldn't have a clear incentive, but it may be to head off Spotify with a streaming model of its own powered by its upcoming North Carolina data center. Most of this has centered around a cloud-based service, but any service would likely be tailored to iPhones and 3G iPads that have limited storage but an always-on Internet connection.