Apple still remains, by far, the world’s biggest retailer of music through its iTunes store. However, with sales declining, stiff competition appearing from streaming services like Spotify and Google Music, and upheaval from artists and record executives, the time has come for Apple to change its tune with music.
At its Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, Apple spoke directly to a crowd of developers assembled from around the world, as the name might suggest.
First the crowd got a walk through of the new version of Mac OS X, the operating system running on Mac computers. Called “El Capitan”, the new version sees slight cosmetic and under the hood changes with no major overhaul.
The new version of iOS was also unveiled. iOS 9 will see the iPad gain some new features that will make it work better for productivity, such as split-screen multitasking and keyboard changes.
We also saw an overhaul on in-built apps such as Notes, which now features rich text editing and the ability to draw right into the note. Passbook, which is now called Wallet, also seen changes and will handle Apple Pay too.
iOS 9 will also have a new app called News which lets you curate who you read your news from in the app. Think about the great app Flipboard, but already there on your iPhone and iPad, making this a death knell for Flipboard. iOS 9 will be available as a free update in autumn.
At the end of the keynote, Apple CEO Tim Cook showed off what the press contingent finally wanted to see – Apple’s effort to take on the world of streaming music.
Suitably called Apple Music, the service will cost about €10 a month, whenever it launches in Ireland.
You’ll be able to stream the entire iTunes catalogue for that price, which isn’t exactly different from Spotify.
Apple is hoping to entice you in by offering more than just the songs, but also offering a “curated” experience. In other words, they’re also launching a radio station.
Beats 1 will be a round the clock music station hosted by a number of DJs, including Zane Lowe who left BBC Radio 1 for Apple.
It’ll broadcast live from London, LA and New York and will present an eclectic mix of music.
You’ll also be able to tune into other curated stations that might serve your style of music better. Apple is calling it “radio with soul”. We’ll have to wait and tune in to hear how soulful it is.
Drake also took the stage during the Apple Music presentation, and gave a meandering talk about Connect, a new way for musicians to sell their wares to their fans.
Apple have previously tried this before with a service called Ping. That died a death, and Connect may too.
We don’t have a new iTunes on our hands with Apple Music, we have something different from that.
Unfortunately, it’s not that different from what has already been available from streaming competitors.
Will its offering of a curated experience save it? Well it depends on who’s curating.
I don’t want Dr Dre or Zane Lowe choosing my playlist, so Apple Music may not of quite found its hook.