Apple's decision to shut down Lala, the online music service it acquired in December 2009, could affect more than the music lovers who paid the Web service to stream tunes to their PCs. Given that Lala was a partner in Google Music, which provided audio previews in exchange for music-related search terms, and was once a piece in a 2009 acquisitions chess game between Google and Apple, its closing could herald another twist in the long-simmering battle between the two tech giants. Apple and Google are also contending in a number of other areas, notably smartphones and, by the end of 2010, possibly tablet PCs.
Apple plans to shut down Lala, the online streaming music service, on May
31. After Apple acquired Lala Media in December 2009, speculation was rampant
that Apple would incorporate Lala's streaming technology into its iTunes
service; nonetheless, both Lala and Apple remained tight-lipped about any
future dispensation of the company's assets.
Lala allowed users, in exchange for 10 cents, to stream a particular song as
many times as they liked; additionally, the Website featured songs and albums
for purchase and downloading.
"Lala is shutting down," read a note on the Website's homepage
April 30. "The Lala service will be shut down on May 31, 2010. Unfortunately, we are
no longer accepting new users." Users who purchased Lala Web songs will be
given credit in the iTunes store for the amount they spent.
In December, Lala Media found itself a chess piece in a brief game of
acquisitions between Apple and Google. First Google attempted to purchase the
music service, before Apple acquired it for $85 million; meanwhile, Google
managed to thwart Apple's designs on mobile display ad company AdMob with a
$750 million buyout.
Google's music search service, Google Music, had partnered with Lala, as
well as MySpace and a variety of music labels, to let users search for millions
of songs via the Google search engine. When the user entered a song or album
title or artist, Google
Music offered up links with audio previews from those partners.
presenting a direct challenge to Apple's iTunes, Google Music's model suggested
the beginnings of a streaming audio service that, with a few more tweaks or
additions, could have become the kernel of a robust alternative.
The question is whether Google will seek to replace Lala as a partner, or if
Apple has reached some agreement with the search engine giant to continue to
provide music results, possibly through an iTunes-branded service.
rivalry with Google extends into multiple areas.
Perhaps prime among them,
given the increasing prevalence of smartphones as both consumer and business
items, is Google Android versus the iPhone OS. Although backers of Android have
claimed that the Linux-based operating system has advantages over Apple's
offering, the upcoming iPhone OS 4 attempts to address many of those criticisms
with new features, including the ability to multitask. The iPhone OS 4 also
includes a mobile-application advertising platform, iAd, which seeks to
monetize applications in a way similar to how Google Ads rely on the Web.
has escalated the mobile conflict with Google by suing HTC,
which makes a
variety of popular Android-based smartphones such as the HTC Incredible and
Nexus One, for supposed copyright infringement. While the iPhone OS holds a
comfortable lead in the U.S.
market over Android, the latter has been decidedly gaining in recent months as
more devices arrive on the market.
Another area of possible contention is tablet PCs. Although Apple came out
of the gate strong in this area with its April 3 release of the iPad, which
sold 500,000 units within its first few days of release, rumors abound that
tablets running a Google operating system will make an appearance by the end of