Goodbye LaLa?

Apple says it’s shutting down next month, leading to speculation that Steve Jobs & Company might have their heads in the cloud.

“Cloud music,” that is. Folks have been speculating on the possibility of Apple introducing a music-streaming service to its iTunes Music Store even before the company acquired LaLa in late 2009. The impending closing only adds fuel to the rumor fire.
A note posted on the LaLa website states the service is shuttering May 31.

LaLa began life in 2006 as a CD-trading post where users would list the CDs they wished to swap. Much like how StubHub links ticket buyers with sellers, LaLa connected those who want specific CDs with those who are willing to part with the discs.

But CD trading was only part of LaLa’s game plan. In 2009 LaLa was included in a new Google music search function, providing music streams as part of results whenever users Googled song titles. The idea was people could listen once for free, but they would have to pay for multiple plays.

It was also last year when LaLa founder Bill Nguyen announced a yet-unapproved iPhone app allowing users to house their MP3s in virtual lockers where users could listen to streams of the tracks for 10 cents a pop.

When Apple acquired the company in December the focus switched from what LaLa would do next to what Steve Jobs would do with LaLa. The rumors of an iTunes streaming service grew in intensity as industry watchers predicted Apple would eventually launch a subscription, “music-in-the-cloud” service.

“Whatever they bought Lala for, it is likely to be integrated into iTunes,” said technology consulting firm Altimeter Group’s Michael Gartenberg. “It’s no surprise they’re shutting this down.”

There is some speculation the company will announce their plans during its annual developers’ conference next month in San Francisco, but rumblings within the recording biz indicate Apple hasn’t pitched any music streaming plans to record label execs.
As with all things Apple, the company has yet to comment on LaLa’s planned May 31 closing.

Thumbplay’s Android Agenda

There’s no denying the “music in the cloud” concept is gathering steam. Rhapsody has apps for iPhone as well as handsets based on Google’s Android OS, and will introduce an app for BlackBerry later this year. Napster-To-Go is good to go for Android and BlackBerry, but has yet to crack the iPhone platform.

Now there’s another player wanting quality time on your cell phone. Thumbplay has launched apps for BlackBerry and Android-based phones providing all the features cloud proponents have come to expect in subscription services, including unlimited plays, millions of songs to choose from and playlist functions.

Thumbplay also offers online and offline access, allowing users to listen to the service when disconnected from the Net, like when you’re flying or riding on a subway. Currently this feature is only available on BlackBerry devices, but it will soon be Android-friendly.

Thumbplay, which costs $9.99 per month, is also available for iPhone. What’s more, it offers a nifty feature allowing you to import your iTunes playlists, making the transition to an Apple-less music phone a painless event.

FTC & Justice Target Apple

What’s the best way to measure success? How about when media reports indicate antitrust officials are looking at your business practices?

That may be the latest benchmark for Apple as media reports indicate the company might have fallen under the watchful eyes of antitrust enforcers from the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice. Citing sources “familiar with the situation,” the Wall Street Journal said recent changes in Apple’s licensing agreement with iPhone developers might indicate the company has surpassed success and moved directly into antitrust territory.

Apparently the interest from regulators stems from developer complaints. In Apple’s recently revised agreement with programmers, the company forbid the use of any software development tools that do not carry the company’s seal of approval, which excludes any non-Apple tools.

One of Apple’s biggest critics when it comes to what is permissible in the land of Jobs is Adobe Systems, which develops and distributes Adobe Flash. Formerly called Macromedia Flash, the programming environment is responsible for many multimedia aspects of the Web.

But Apple won’t have anything to do with Flash and forbids its use for developing apps for iPhone. Jobs recently posted an open letter on Apple’s “Hot News” section of its website claiming Flash is “the number one reason Macs crash.” Jobs also wrote that he has issues with the environment’s security and performance.

However, Apple’s refusal to allow programmers to use tools not issued or approved by the company when developing apps for iPhone (and presumably iPad), may only be one aspect of the alleged interest by antitrust regulators. Federal authorities may be just as interested in the company’s mobile advertising service as it is with programming for Apple devices.

The service – iAd – apparently attracted the attention of regulators investigating Google’s $750 million acquisition of AdMob.

According to the Journal, a wireless-advertising exec claimed to have been contacted by an FTC official asking about the mobile-advertising industry and Apple’s developer agreement.

There are also reports that several developers have also been contacted by the FTC, another indication that antitrust warriors might have Apple in their sights.


In a world full of distrust and fear, is love of Apple products the only thing needed to form a rock-solid relationship?
Dating site Cupidtino thinks so. Currently in closed beta testing, Cupidtino wants to bring Apple consumers together, matching iPhone lovers with Mac users, iPad fans with iPod owners and, well, you get the idea.

“Diehard Mac & Apple fans often have a lot in common – personalities, creative professions, a similar sense of style and aesthetics, taste, and of course a love for technology,” reads the message at “We believe these are enough reasons for two people to meet and fall in love, and so we created the first Mac-inspired dating site to help you find other Machearts around you.”

Determining one’s soul mate by the technology he or she favors might seem a little out there, but it could be worse. Instead of matching Apple-loving gearheads the company could be providing Microsoft’s fans online hookups to meet, fall in love, marry, and procreate. That’s just plain scary.