There has been quite a bit of talk recently about Apple launching an iTunes app on Android. The prospect is certainly interesting, even if the rumors are somewhat dubious, and it got me thinking about the likelihood of Apple branching out iTunes.
Firstly, Apple launching iTunes on Android would be a big deal. To set the context a bit, providing Apple services to Android users is something Apple has showed little to no interest in. As it stands, iTunes, iBooks and the App Store mobile apps are exclusive to iOS, there is no direct iCloud integration outside of Apple devices, services like Game Center, iMessage and FaceTime are iOS and Mac only, and you can’t use your Apple ID to buy anything outside of Apple’s ecosystem.
Of course, there are already ways to get your iTunes purchases onto Android devices now that content is available DRM-free, but having the iTunes Store right there on Android phones and tablets is a completely different thing.
Steve Jobs famously said he didn’t want to make Android users happy, as quoted in the Walter Isaacson biography:
We thought about whether we should do a music client for Android. We put iTunes on Windows to sell more iPods. But I don’t see an advantage of putting our own music app on Android, except to make Android users happy. And I don’t want to make Android users happy.
While a lot has changed in to the digital music space and the world of tech at large since Jobs’ death, I still do not think iTunes on Android is likely. Here’s why…
When considering iTunes on Android, one must ask what Apple has to gain from taking the app to the platform.
So far this year, US digital album sales are down 13% for the week ending March 16, and digital track sales are down 11% for that same period, according to Nielsen SoundScan — Those figures apply to all digital music stores, not just iTunes, but still represent a significant drop as the market moves towards subscription streaming services.
Does Apple stand to benefit from offering the iTunes Store on more devices? Globally, Android, in its various forms, dominates iOS. With that number of smartphone owners who don’t have iTunes on their mobile device, Apple is would certainly stand to gain more prospective customers, and there’d be an increase in downloads from their music store as opposed to somebody else’s. But that in itself is not necessarily indicative of an overall benefit for a number of reasons…
We know iTunes is a big business, but it’s not Apple’s biggest. iTunes is profitable, but where the company makes its money is in hardware sales. If iTunes was available on Android, would that lead to losses in sales of iPhones, iPads and iPods? Perhaps.
The question then is, does Apple make more money from digital music sales on Android than they stand to lose from device sales? Personally, and I claim to have no knowledge of the incredibly complex numbers involved, I’d guess not.
Not only is there the possibility of people opting to choose Android over iOS, resulting in losses in device sales, there is also a knock-on effect as subsequent purchases are not made through the App Store and iBooks.
Future hardware purchases might also not be Apple ones if customers are happy enough with iTunes music alongside content from Google Play or third-party services on Android.
One of the key aspects of Apple’s strategy thus far has been an ecosystem play. iTunes, the App Store, iBooks, iCloud, iOS and Mac all have a role in this and the more invested you are in the Apple ecosystem, the more likely you are to continue to buy products from Apple for sheer convenience and access to all your content.
iTunes on Android just makes it a little bit easier to make the OS switch by giving users one less reason to stick around, something Apple is sure to be weary about.
So far, then, it seems Apple launching iTunes on Android would be a poor financial decision for the company. But that is also without factoring the time and effort it would take to actually develop iTunes for Android.
There are hundreds of Android devices with different device specifications and operating systems leading to thousands of considerations for whoever would be in charge of heading up the iTunes for Android team. I’m not sure Apple would be willing to invest that amount of time, energy and money into a project that is uncertain to yield a healthy return.
The iTunes music store on Android would be a risk and one that I think Apple is unlikely to take.
iTunes RadioI have also been considering iTunes Radio, Apple’s music streaming service, in relation to Android and I think this is where the discussion gets a bit more interesting. If iTunes-as-in-the-music-store does not make its way to Android, would taking iTunes Radio cross-platform make sense? It’s certainly worth taking a look at…
Apple is rumored to be breaking our Radio functionality from the iOS Music app in the future to create a standalone iTunes Radio application. There has also been talk of Apple considering an on-demand streaming service à la Spotify or Beats Music.
Personally, I think both of these decisions would be good for the future of iTunes Radio and would increase its utility and popularity on iOS but would also benefit a potential Android version.
The digital music market on the whole is shifting towards music streaming. With iTunes Radio, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Rdio, Beats Music, and many more proving popular, it has led some to question just how relevant the iTunes Store is anymore.
Music streaming services for the most part benefit from one thing — ubiquity. wherever you are, they are. Mac, Windows, web, iOS, Android, Windows Phone. The best streaming services are available on most of the most popular platforms and give the user easy access to music.
iTunes Radio is a little different. It’s only available on devices that run iTunes (iOS, Mac and Windows PCs) and its Australia and US-only too (although more international rollouts should be coming “soon”). That means it is only available to a subset of internet-connected users, namely those that that can buy content from the iTunes Store.
That’s because one of the best features of iTunes Radio is the easy ability to purchase music you hear directly from the iTunes Store and have it appear in your Music app or iTunes library permanently.
This benefits users who can quickly buy something they’ve heard and want to own, benefits Apple who pocket the cash from the sale and benefits record labels who Apple has to appease to get content deals. So, how would iTunes Radio on Android offer these purchases without having the iTunes Store on Android? It could not and would not.
If iTunes Radio on Android were ever to materialize, it would have to be in the form of an on-demand music streaming service. Without this functionality, I don’t feel iTunes Radio makes enough sense on Android for the thought to even be entertained.
But with this functionality, iTunes Radio could become a direct competitor to other on-demand services like Spotify and Google’s own “All Access” and with the might (and music catalogue) of Apple behind it, I feel it could be a profitable endeavour.
However, iTunes Radio does not stand to benefit from the aforementioned ubiquity of other services as it is not Apple’s whole business.
For Spotify or Pandora or the others, being everywhere is hugely beneficial as it gives the maximum amount of people the best possible opportunity to use their service and make them money. To Apple, the revenue from iTunes Radio is negligible so this is not a consideration the company will have.
Plus, offering any kind of service to users of other platforms, as outlined before, would still run the risk of damaging the Apple ecosystem on the whole and would be unlikely to pull users from the Android platform to iOS.
iTunes Radio on Android is perhaps more likely than the full iTunes Store, but still may not represent a valuable enough prospect for Apple to explore and ultimately, I believe, it will not happen.
Let me know what you think! Does iTunes need to be present on Android? Would the iTunes Store or iTunes Radio make sense? Or do you think it should stay as it is in Apple’s own ecosystem? Add you comments below