We don't normally report on tech rumours at Lifehacker, but we felt this one needed to be brought to your attention. According to a report on Digital Music News, the Cupertino juggernaut will be killing off iTunes music downloads entirely within two to four years. It's not a matter of if, but when.
An inside source with "close and active business relationships with Apple" allegedly leaked internal discussions to Digital Music News which paint a very bleak picture for the future of iTunes. The music download service will be permanently retired in favour of its streaming successor Apple Music -- and it's going to happen sooner rather than later.
A range of shutdown scenarios have apparently been tabled, with the most aggressive being to end all song sales within the next two years. The company is also considering "riding out" iTunes sales for the next three to four years.
Apple’s termination could also be staggered with countries selected based on streaming adoption rates. In this scenario, Australia, which has embraced music streaming wholeheartedly, would likely be one of the first markets to face the axe.
Whichever strategy is ultimately adopted, one thing appears to be certain: paid music downloads will no longer be part of Apple's future. The question now becomes why?
While iTunes music downloads are still worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Apple, revenue has been spiraling downwards thanks to the runaway success of streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple's own Apple Music.
According to music industry analysts, music downloads are set to decline by as much as 30 per cent in 2016. Killing off iTunes music despite being profitable makes more sense in this context. Apple is just getting out while the getting's good.
Perhaps not unrelatedly, Apple is expected to unveil a big update to Apple Music at its annual developers conference this June. We can largely blame/thank Spotify for all this -- just like Apple did with the launch of the iPod, the streaming service has completely transformed the music industry, forcing larger players to play catch up or sink fast.
We're personally of two minds about this. On the one hand, streaming is clearly the future of music -- it's more convenient, more affordable and ties directly into the connected devices we use on a daily basis. On the other hand, the ability to "own" music content, even if it was only digital, is something we're going to miss. (Sure, it's possible to download music for offline listening with Apple Music, but it's not the same thing.)
What do you guys make of all this? Do any of you still buy music downloads (of heaven forbid, CDs)? If you're an iOS user, have you migrated to Apple Music yet or are you still sticking with iTunes? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Via Digital Music News]