Apple might indeed be rolling its Beats Music streaming service into its general iTunes music offerings, and shipping it included across its range of mobile devices, including both iPhones and iPads. If the Financial Time’s sources are correct, the service would then have instant reach to hundreds of millions of potential new customers, giving it a big lead over competitive streaming services including Rdio and Spotify.
The paid streaming service would include all the functionality that currently exists in Beats Music form, but most likely with iTunes branding instead of “Beats Music.” That’s in line with what TechCrunch heard previously, and would also make sense given Apple’s existing lead and brand cachet in digital music sales and services.
Users might see the update roll out with the revamped Beats service as soon as March, according to the FT, and subscriptions could be tied to fingerprint-based authorization of purchase, using Touch ID. Both pre-installation and easier sign-up process might help drive new subscriptions, though it also raises the question of whether users would welcome more new pre-installed software on their devices.
The iTunes-branded Beats would still be a paid subscription service, per the FT, and would live alongside iTunes Radio, as well as the existing attains digital music catalog. Presumably iTunes Match (which allows users to upload their own libraries to the cloud for access anywhere) would also continue to exist, allowing users a number of different options about how and when they can access musical content via their Apple devices.
A music service arriving in March sounds like it could very well be part of iOS 8.2, which Apple began testing this week in advance of the launch of the Apple Watch. A streaming music service might be a good thing to debut alongside the iWatch, as the wearable will offer music playback control, and could also potentially support offline playback features. Apple’s Watch launch will likely carry plenty of its own hype, but a simultaneous premiere of what is essentially a rebrand of an existing product wouldn’t take too much extra effort in terms of product development time, and would make for a splashy way to promote both iOS 8.2 beyond the wearable, and Apple’s suite of first-party software for the device.
Preserving the Beats Music app, features and library while associating it more closely with the core Apple brand is a smart strategy, especially while the company preserves and continues to build the Beats brand for hardware. It’ll result in less confusing product divisions for consumers, and support Apple’s streaming efforts with the full weight of its legacy reputation.