Apple made a major improvement to its digital music service today as it introduced iTunes Match. For $24.99 a year, iTunes will scan a user’s mobile gadget or hard drive, identify its recordings — including those copied from a CD — and then make them available on iCloud for streaming to any Web-enabled device running iTunes software. The company says iTunes already has 20M songs, and will upload “only what it can’t match.”
The announcement precedes Google’s expected unveiling tomorrow of its own music store. It will enable buyers to download tunes, and stream them from remote servers. The company also has been lobbying record companies to make it possible for members of the Google+ social network to share tunes with their online friends. EMI has agreed to offer songs from its catalog on the music store, and Vivendi’s Universal Music “may be signed as early as tomorrow,” Bloomberg reports. The other two majors, Sony and Warner Music, are holding back until pricing and privacy concerns are resolved.
Many tech critics thought that the iPhone 4S was a yawn, but consumers and Wall Street today had a different idea. Thousands of people around the world queued up to buy the slick new smartphone. Yankee Group, a research firm, predicts that Apple could sell 4M new iPhones this weekend. That set the stage for a 3.3% rise in Apple’s stock price, to $422.00, a new high. Some analysts watching the run on iPhones note that the company may be attracting new customers among BlackBerry users angered by this week’s service glitches. For now, at least, Apple seems to be getting a pass for the problems many of its customers had downloading the new iOS5 operating system and watching their email addresses vanish as they tried to access the new iCloud media service. Apple will release its 3Q earnings on Tuesday, and analysts expect to see revenues rise 44.8% to $29.45B.
HBO plays a bigger role than you might imagine in Apple’s negotiations with Hollywood to offer recent movies via the iTunes Store and its new iCloud service to devices such as the iPhone and iPad. HBO’s deals with studios including Warner, Fox, and Universal give it the exclusive right to digitally distribute their films during the premium TV window. (Others such as Starz have similar rights.) That’s been an issue for the new UltraViolet cloud initiative backed by most major studios and consumer electronics companies. Except Disney and Apple: UltraViolet is designed to reinvigorate home video sales by giving people who buy certain DVDs and Blu-ray discs the right to access their movies from the Internet cloud.
Warner Bros had to restructure its deal with corporate cousin HBO to clear the way for this week’s first UltraViolet release, Horrible Bosses. But Apple’s now talking to studios to secure the right to offer movies at the iTunes Store that can be accessed via the iCloud service — which was launched on Wednesday. That poses two challenges to Time Warner: The company has lot invested in UltraViolet as it reintroduces its web site Flixster as a user-friendly gateway for films stored in those digital lockers. And HBO is making a big push to promote its HBO Go digital streaming service. So keep an eye on Time Warner and HBO: The fate of their initiatives, as well as iCloud, will be shaped by the positions they take … Read More »