Will Apple's music cloud be free?
Apple could allow users to access certain aspects of its cloud music streaming service for free - at least initially.
Such a move would likely help Cupertino secure its place as the number one cloud music player, while Google enters the marketplace and existing competitors like Amazon gain popularity.
Apple's cloud service - when launched - will offer users the ability to store music and access it from any computer, smartphone or tablet. It makes for a seamless transition between home, work, and on-the-go without having to store music on a particular MP3 player. Users may also be able to "rent" endless tunes and access specific songs or albums for a flat rate.
Billboard writer Ed Christman reported last September that Google planned to charge $25 a year for a subscription to its cloud music service.
Similar reports have surfaced that Apple will charge around $20, but no one knows for sure exactly how much the services will indeed cost.
Amazon is currently offering a cloud-based music storage system where users can store existing music and download new tunes from Amazon.com in the cloud.
The Seattle-based company is the first major industry player to release a cloud music service, giving it a competitive advantage over Google and Apple. If rumors of $20 or $25 for a year of service on Google or Apple where users can rent and store music are true, Amazon won’t have that competitive advantage for very long.
Google and Apple have also been in discussions with four of the largest recording companies about licensing music, something which Amazon has chosen to ignore, which may cause them problems down the line. But then again, Amazon isn’t streaming music the user didn't specifically purchase or upload.
Skeptics wonder if consumers will indeed pay for cloud music offerings, considering subscriptions services have yet to attract any significant share in the digital music scene. It seems like users prefer to purchase their own tunes rather than renting them.
The idea of cloud-based music rental programs takes the new movie approach where instead of specific ownership of a DVD or movie, multiple people can access the flick at the same time for a low subscription fee. Cloud music takes more of Netflix-style approach to music rental rather than a purchase plan.
Apple currently has a deal with Warner Music Group but Google has hit a brick wall in its negotiations with the four top labels. No doubt it’s only a matter of time until both companies come out with their own cloud-based music platforms.