Mon, Jun 08, 2015 - Page 15 News List

Apple expected to turn up the music dial today

DEVELOPERS GATHER:Analysts said the iPhone maker could release a Spotify competitor and court Watch apps during its annual conference

AFP, SAN FRANCISCO

Apple is expected to unveil a ramped-up music service today that builds on the iPhone maker’s strengths in a challenge to Spotify, Pandora and other established players.

In the biggest overhaul of iTunes since it was launched in early 2003, the service is anticipated to include an option of subscribing to streaming music for US$10 monthly.

Analysts and industry insiders believe a rebranded Apple Music is to be introduced today during a keynote presentation opening the company’s week-long Wordwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

“I absolutely think we will see a streaming music service,” Gartner analyst Van Baker told reporters. “Apple is late to the game on this, but it may not matter.”

While iTunes transformed the way music was distributed and sold, it also put Apple in a position to build extensive relationships with labels and artists.

The popularity of iTunes and Apple devices means that a broad audience could be provided an easy way to simply switch on the new music service, Baker said.

Apple Music is likely to have benefited from talent and technology acquired when Apple bought Beats Electronics and its streaming music service in a US$3 billion deal in May last year.

An Apple streaming music service would grab headlines at an annual gathering where the California-based company courts creators of fun, hip or functional apps that help drive the popularity of Internet-linked mobile devices.

Google showed off an array of innovations at its annual developers conference, which took place at the same downtown San Francisco venue less than two weeks ago.

Apple is likely eager to fuel enthusiasm for making apps to run on its recently launched line of smartwatches.

“I think we will see a focus on doing new and unusual things on Apple Watch,” independent Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle said.

Apple is likely to loosen the reins a bit on its smartwatch to let developers create apps that work right on the wrist, instead of on the iPhones to which they are synced.

Enhancements were also expected to Apple Pay, which allows contactless payments with iPhones or smartwatches. Improvements could include adding the ability to track rewards program information.

“Apple’s role in the payments ecosystem is still unproven and of questionable value at this time,” Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said. “What they announce will help determine if Apple Pay moves from the ‘nice-to-have’ bucket to the ‘must-have’ bucket for both merchants and shoppers.”

Forrester analyst Thomas Husson considered lack of support for merchants’ loyalty programs a “missing piece” of Apple Pay and a top feature consumers want in a mobile wallet.

Forrester predicts that US mobile payments will top US$142 billion by 2019, up from US$67 billion this year.

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