Where Is Apple’s Music Cloud?

Steve Jobs made a lot of product introductions this week.

He relaunched Apple TV. Refreshed the Nano line. Launched Ping for iTunes, a social network all about music. He’s on fire.

But the one thing you didn’t hear from the Zenmaster is news about the launch of Apple’s new cloud delivery system for iTunes.

In a recent chat with an Apple store employee, I talked about the cloud and said I can’t wait for Jobs to introduce it. As most of you have frequented the Apple store know, employees cannot discuss what Steve Jobs may or may not do. They’ll cut you right off and move on to another topic.

But this young person told me he would be surprised if Apple came out with the cloud now or anytime soon. I was taken aback until I heard his reasoning. Basically, until WiFi is everywhere seamlessly, launching cloud delivery of music content would have to depend on the inferior AT&T mobile network and therefore it would be a failure.

Let me be clear.

Steve Jobs did not buy Lala and close it down to waste upwards of $75 million. Apple bought Lala to get at its cloud technology. Believe me, the day will come when Steve Jobs will stand up in his jeans and mock turtleneck and announce that the cloud has arrived.

But not now.

Traditional thinking is that the record labels are holding the announcement up because they are unwilling to adjust music license agreements already in place with Apple. I’m not so sure. I am certain that the labels don’t get it, but that doesn't mean Jobs cannot legally launch the cloud under the existing agreements. The cloud will allow iTunes users to access their music and more from anywhere without having to do a time wasting download.

What is fascinating to watch is that Apple can do almost anything – except Apple TV, it seems – and succeed because it has won the faith of consumers who are more tuned in to a Steve Jobs sales pitch than the president of the United States speaking from the Oval Office.

This creates quite a problem for streaming media companies like Last.FM or even wannabe subscription plans like Spotify. Ironically, consumers seem to reject Rhapsody and other paid all-you-can-eat streaming services so why could Apple be the one to pull it off?

Some 160 million iTunes customers who have signed up and frequent the music site are at the ready for anything Apple does. And as I previously mentioned, there is a lot of goodwill between Apple and their customers which makes new product introductions have an air of credibility from the start.

What fascinates me is that Rhapsody and Spotify deliver everything in recorded music to subscribers for a monthly fee but Spotfy hasn’t really launched here and Rhapsody is experiencing declining subscription numbers. Even Rdio, the most recent hopeless case in paid music streaming, has launched to a thud.

That would lead a reasonable person to conclude that in the world of the mobile Internet there is free and nothing else.

That appears to be true. Consumers do not want additional monthly fees to saddle them. Why not free music because it is so easy to steal.

But Apple might do what Rhapsody, Spotify and Rdio have not been able to do – get consumers to pay for access to the cloud.

Yes, Apple starts with 160 million prospects.

And, who wouldn’t like to hear their iTunes library anywhere instantly from the cloud?

True, Apple customers are used to paying a reasonable fee for all services Apple. This would be another service and if priced right could succeed.

While free is easy, using Apple’s paid intuitive interface is easier.

Apple could get consumers to do what they have thus far refused to do for any other streaming subscription service.

There is no competing with a company with that many prospects. If Apple made it cool as well as easy, the chances for success would increase.

Apple is in a very good place.

They are working behind the scenes on a cloud approach to delivering iTunes stored content to consumers, but Apple almost always does not do what it cannot deliver. That would be suicidal.

The coolest rock star of all, Steve Jobs, is really an old time salesman.

He knows that to do repeat business you have to win the confidence of your customers. Solve their problems. Make things right. Make them believe everything you offer is the latest and greatest.

Apple more often that not exceeds its customers expectations because it does not introduce products that are not yet ready for prime time.

Such is the case with the game changing cloud availability of music through Apple’s growing and dominant online music store.

But when the day arrives, Apple's customers will have already said yes a thousand times in their own minds.

It reminds me of the master sales trainer Tom Hopkins who taught that when a prospect asks, “do you have it red?” to not answer right away but to say, “would you like it in red?”. Hopkins goes on and advises that if you get a “yes” on that, don’t just break out the red whatever, but say, “Let me make a note of that”.

Building up desire is part of closing the sale.

When it comes to cloud computing, Steve Jobs is always busily at work building up desire for what surely will be a music revolution.

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