Tonight, Apple is holding its latest press event, focused on services. You’ll be able to watch it live here from 10am California-time (that’s 5pm UK-time), with Apple already “live streaming” the empty Steve Jobs Theater venue to stoke anticipation. Thus far, the rumour-mill has been swirling mainly around the expected launch of Apple’s video-streaming service and a news-subscription product, with breathless reports of which cable networks / studios and news publishers are in or out.
Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman revived predictions that Apple could unveil a third new subscription product tonight, focused on gaming. “Apple is also working on a premium games subscription for its App Store and discussing it with potential partners, according to people with knowledge of the plans,” he wrote. “it will focus on iPhones and iPads and bundle together paid games from different developers that consumers can access for a monthly fee… The company would collect these monthly fees, then divide up the revenue between developers based on how much time users spend playing their games.”
Caveat: the report suggests that the games subscription might not be unveiled tonight, but instead might be held back to June, and Apple’s developer-focused WWDC event. The direction of travel is the important thing, however: Apple will soon have a suite of media/entertainment-
Anyway: video, news, games and music. It’s increasingly important for the music industry to think about where that’s almost-certainly going next: the potential for Apple to bundle these services together into an all-in-one subscription package. Gurman, for what it’s worth, suggested that Apple “may” discuss this at the event tonight. But even if not, it’s a logical next stage: and one that would take Apple into the same territory as Amazon Prime in terms of media bundles. (Nobody appears to be talking about ebooks in this context for Apple, yet, but give it time…)
In the past, talk about the competitive threat posed to Spotify and other pureplay streaming services by Apple, Amazon and Google has focused on the big-tech players’ ability to promote their own services to their existing customers – and also on the fact that they have enormous businesses outside music, capable of soaking up the economics of music-streaming. But their ability to bundle multiple entertainment/media content into unified subscriptions is just as existential a question for pureplay streaming services. Spotify can (and does) argue that its focus on music should be seen as an advantage, but from its US bundle with Hulu to its push into podcasts, the company is already evolving into a multi-media service itself.
Apple, too, is facing up to challenges: the Wall Street Journal’s excellent pre-cap of tonight’s event starts with the sentence “The iPhone is running out of juice” and suggests Apple’s new push in services is necessary but “takes Apple out of its comfort zone into areas where it has failed in the past, and that today are replete with risks and competition”. Spotify’s recent anti-trust complaint against Apple shows one of the points of tension here: watch to see if the former company’s video launch spurs Netflix to say more about the App Store environment, for example.
But also think ahead: about what’s needed for even a giant like Apple to successfully bundle its services; how much these bundles might cost (Amazon Prime’s inclusion of shopping deliveries complicates guestimates using that as a model); and how music might fare in the competition for slices of the bundled-subscription pie…