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Opinion: Considering media in an iCloud

Christopher Breen, | June 1, 2011
What might Apple do for media streaming with its forthcoming iCloud service? Christopher Breen has a few ideas in advance of next week's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote.

And then there’s the Big Enchilada: Subscription offerings. I’m a complete bore on this subject in that I proclaim time and again how much I love subscription services because they allow me to listen to anything my heart desires (and a lot it didn’t know it desired as well) on many of the music-playing devices I own. Apple would have to come up with some euphemism for such a service (because the company has helped make it a dirty word) or build it into a $99-a-year iCloud plan (versus a slimmed down free iCloud version that supports an active locker scheme). But with the proper amount of exposure, a dose of Apple marketing spin, Pandora-like station features, support for iOS streaming and downloads, and a Ping service that included playlist sharing, more people than you might expect could find it a compelling reason to subscribe to iCloud.

But what about video streaming? Apple may make nice with the music companies to allow active lockers and, perhaps, computer-to-mobile streaming, but the real enemy of media streaming is the ISPs. Those that have been most aggressive about capping bandwidth—Comcast, Time-Warner, and AT&T—not-coincidentally also have significant entertainment divisions that would be hurt if consumers were allowed to stream all the entertainment they liked. These companies not only enjoy monopoly status in many markets, but they also control the infrastructure (and, some might suggest, far too many of the elected officials who should be looking into such obvious conflicts of interest). Money-bloated though Apple may be, it’s unlikely to start laying cable across the country in order to deliver Internet access free of bandwidth restrictions.

Streaming media is the future, so this is a battle that eventually must be fought, but Apple may be only one of several participants in such a fight. In the meantime, iCloud is likely to include a music streaming service that may not provide everything I desire but is attractive, easy-to-use, and functional enough for Apple's primary audience.


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