In an interview at the D11 conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at several projects the company has lined up, but one long-rumored service was not mentioned: iRadio. The streaming music complement to iTunes has supposedly been in the works for some time now, but Apple has yet to pull the trigger. Is WWDC the perfect opportunity to debut the internet radio platform?
The timing is right. Earlier this month Google debuted Play Music All Access, throwing their hat into the ring with others like Spotify, Pandora, and Rdio. Apple certainly would not want their biggest competitor to have the leg up. We’re talking about the company that invented the iPod and revolutionized digital music. So what’s taken so long?
The most recent buzz suggests Apple is nearly ready to go live with what has been dubbed iRadio by fans and press (though the real name could be anything at this point). The hold up seems to be with acquiring the necessary licensing deals from the major music houses. As it stands, most labels are ready and willing to back Apple, pointing to the success of iTunes as a prime reason to move forward. The main detractor is Sony Music, apparently hung up on contractual language about fees paid for songs that users skip.
Taking these licensing deals into consideration, it may be out of Apple’s hands as to whether or not they launch iRadio at WWDC. They could, of course, go forward without the library of Sony (or whatever labels haven’t signed on), but that would mean a significant chunk of popular music would be absent. Launching with a limited library could have an effect on user interest in the new service.
It’s hard to gauge whether or not iRadio will be part of the WWDC keynote, but if Apple waits much longer they risk missing the boat altogether as other services continue to gain traction. But does Apple even need a streaming radio service? To that I say: did they need to release an iPad mini? The original iPad has done quite well, as has iTunes. But that’s no reason to ignore the biggest growing trend in digital music. Apple will certainly want a piece of that pie.