Yes. Apple’s streaming platform is about video, not music

Greg Sandoval’s piece from yesterday on CNet about Apple and Lala has been getting a fair amount of follow-up action today. It seems finally to be dawning on folks that Apple’s acquisition of the music-streaming service last year was not simply about parking the iTunes music store in the cloud.

As Sandoval notes, not much has been heard from Apple about Lala since it shut the service down in May. He then quotes “sources” to the effect that Apple has been telling label execs recently that anything it does, streaming wise, in music is likely to be “modest in scope.” The money graf that has everyone’s interest piqued today, however, is Sandoval’s reporting that “most of the time since the acquisition, the Lala team has worked on an undisclosed video feature instead of music.”

Video? Yes, video. As Media Wonk readers may recall, I noted the likely video angle in a post back in January, which in turn drew heavily on a TechCrunch piece by MP3tunes CEO Michael Robertson. I’ve also touched on it in posts for GigaOm Pro (sub. req.). I’ve even written a white paper about it (sub. req.) and it’s importance to Apple’s eventual living room strategy.

The short version: There is nothing really sexy Apple could do right now in music, let alone anything proprietary. Having given up using DRM on music, it can no longer create consumer lock in, and there are plenty of others working on cloud-based paid music streaming platforms. And Apple will never again be able to get the sort of most-favored nation status from the labels it needs for its business model to work. How important do you think music is to the iPad?

Subscription video over IP, however, is a wide open field and nobody has yet figured out how to do it right–perfect conditions for Apple. It had better hurry, though. Others smell blood in the water, too.

Further reading:

Cloud-based iTunes Could Be About Video, Not Music

iPad App Roundup: 6 Television and Movie Apps