In addition to the announcement of iOS 7 at WWDC 2013 yesterday, Apple also introduced iTunes Radio, a new music streaming service. While Apple’s venture into the space has been long rumored, this is Apple’s first iteration of a radio-like service. iTunes Radio will be free to all iOS device users and available in the fall.
iTunes Radio will provide a service exactly like Pandora, as it identifies users taste to find and play similar music. Users of iTunes Radio will gain access to the entire iTunes catalog which currently stands at over 26 million tracks. Prior to iTunes Radio, Apple used a tool called Genius, a playlist builder in iTunes which compiled similar sounding music in a user’s library.
With the introduction of iTunes Radio, Apple seems to be making a push in becoming a leader in streaming music. iTunes Radio will include access to the entire iTunes library, but will not have on-demand streaming capabilities similar to Spotify or Rdio. iTunes Radio also lacks the social component that is offered with other music streaming apps.
For many music streaming applications, users who do not want to receive ads can subscribe to the service for a monthly fee. Apple currently provides a subscription-based service called iTunes Match that shares a user’s iTunes music via iCloud. Unlike Spotify, which allows users to simply stream anything from its robust library, iTunes Match requires users to own all of their music via iTunes purchase or uploaded data.
The strength of a service like this resides in the library, which iTunes has in its favor. Working with Sony, Universal and Warner, Apple has compiled a much stronger music catalog than its competitors. As mentioned before, iTunes has a library of over 26 million songs while Google Play only has 18 million and Pandora has 20 million.
By being able to offer music that is not available elsewhere, iTunes Radio may provide a service that cannot be duplicated. Apple has built a strong enough library of music to make a significant impact on the space.