When Apple bought streaming music company Lala a year ago, observers thought it might herald a day when Apple customers would be able to stream their iTunes music to their iPhones and iPod Touch players. That hasn’t happened yet, and if it ever does, it won’t be Lala’s engineers who do it—I’m told that what’s left of the Lala team inside Apple has been dispersed to other projects. But now another company, Palo Alto, CA-based mSpot, is introducing an equivalent service.
MSpot is announcing today that iTunes users can upload their entire music collection to the company’s servers, then stream it to their iPhones or iPads using an mSpot Music app that went live in the iTunes App Store today. They can also stream tunes to a desktop browser on any computer, or even an Internet-connected TV, through the mSpot website.
The service is free for up to 2 gigabytes of stored music. Users who need more storage can purchase 40 gigabytes of space for $3.99 per month.
I wrote about the launch of an Android version of mSpot’s streaming music service in a Q&A with mSpot CEO Daren Tsui back in June. More than a million people have since downloaded the Android app. Tsui hinted at the time that there would eventually be an iOS version of the streaming music app for iPhones and iPads—and now the company has followed through.
“We’re giving you the “next generation” iTunes experience,” Tsui said in a statement released today. “By putting your music in the cloud, you can access it anytime and anywhere you go, and on different devices, such as your iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC, or Internet TV.”
You might wonder why Apple customers would really need a streaming music service, since most people who buy download iTunes songs to their laptops or desktop PCs habitually copy it to their iPods or iPhones. The advantage of putting the music in the cloud, from mSpot’s point of view, is that users can listen to it anywhere, whether or not they remembered to sync it to their mobile gadgets.
“Listening to your music on multiple devices is now truly easy,” says Tsui. “It doesn’t require manual syncing and troublesome cords.”
As Tsui explained in the June Q&A, mSpot’s streaming software—which was originally designed to handle radio, and was then adapted for video-on-demand programming—includes a buffering feature that ensures streaming music plays continuously, even if a user’s mobile data connection is spotty.
Tsui told me then that he’s not worried about the lingering prospect of a Lala-like streaming-music service from Apple, in part because Lala worked by storing master files of the music users owned, not by physically moving their data to the cloud. That meant Lala had to pay licensing fees to music labels.
“I think Apple is going to have a difficult time relaunching the Lala service as it was before they shut it down,” Tsui said. “Because of the way they structured it, someone has to pay the label for the song that’s being streamed. It was okay for Lala because they never really reached scale, so the amount of money they had to pay the labels was nominal. But imagine Apple doing that. If it scales, they are going to end up owing the labels billions of dollars…Meanwhile we are going to keep innovating and address the Apple base and hopefully we will reach escape velocity before Apple figures out what it wants to do.”