Apple may be taking the next step in embracing a streaming and cloud-storage service for iTunes, if pundits are reading correctly into Apple's shuttering this week of Lala.com.
The Mac, iPad and iPhone maker purchased Lala.com, a streaming music site, in December. But this week it posted a notice on its front page informing subscribers it will be shutting down the service on May 31 and will not accept new users.
To many industry observers, the signs point to Apple's move to merge its streaming and cloud storage service into iTunes, giving users a way to back up their purchase to the cloud.
Lala is aimed at helping users discover music and purchase DRM-free songs. A plugin handles downloads and synching the music file with a user's own music library.
Its most unique ability allows a user to make their entire music collection available remotely, through the site -- freeing them from having to load the entire contents of their iTunes library onto an iPod or iPhone. If a user owns a song and it is on their local computer, Lala makes it available to them from any location, while it requires them to upload their songs only if they don't already exist on the site.
Apple's purchase initially led to considerable speculation that the company intended to move iTunes from being just a desktop client to being a cloud-based service. Back in January, for instance, The Wall Street Journal wrote about Lala and said that Apple could launch a cloud-based service as early as June.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment on potential Lala plans.
The timing of Lala's closure may signal another step along this path, just ahead of Apple CEO Steve Jobs's appearance at the D Conference in the first week of June -- potentially the perfect place for him to discuss such an initiative. The following week is the Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, where Apple is expected to make some news, potentially announcing a new iPhone, and possibly a revised iTunes as well.
Analyst Ben Bajarin with Creative Strategies said he wouldn't be surprised if Apple's cloud-based changes to iTunes begins taking public shape by June. "I didn't expect the [Lala] service to last much longer. I expect the option to have your library backed up to the cloud so can access it without the need for a local player has been the strategy all along," Bajarin told InternetNews.com.
But he thinks it might also show up at Apple's traditional fall iPod event.
"They've had Lala for a while, so they may announce a new service at WWDC or around their iPod event, which would be more in the fall," he said. "They've got two options, but I think it's a safe bet it will happen this year."
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