Spotify has submitted its iPhone app to Apple’s App Store and the company wants everybody to know it. An official blog post has gone up, demos of the app to select press have been given, and a YouTube video (see below) is doing the rounds.
Now the wait begins, however: Will Apple approve the music streaming service for distribution on its platform, a service that, when you dig a little deeper, appears to compete more directly with the company’s own iTunes Music Store than similar offerings, such as Last.fm and Pandora, both of which have already been given the go-ahead by Cupertino.
The difference, and here’s the key, is that Spotify ditches the Internet ‘radio’ model in which users can’t select specific tracks but can only choose by genre or ‘similar artists to’, and instead provides a full on-demand experience. A juke-box in the sky if you will, whereby any specific track or album can be selected for near-instant playback. In other words, the experience is much more akin to iTunes and a user’s own music library, only the catalog is much, much bigger.
This similarity is compelled by a specific feature of the mobile version of Spotify. The ability to cache playlists for off-line playback, thereby addressing the major shortcoming of any mobile streaming music service. By downloading a selection of music first, users can continue to access Spotify on their iPhones outside of WiFi or 3G coverage and at the same time conserve battery life. Again, much closer to the way iTunes works.
On this basis it’s conceivable, though far from definite, that Apple will ban Spotify because it offers functionality too similar to the iPhone’s built-in iTunes app. Another way of saying its competes too heavily.
In Spotify’s favor – and hence the round of PR today, I suspect – this would raise the eyebrows of the EU at least on anti-competitive grounds. However, it probably won’t come to that.
I predict that Apple will in the end give Spotify the green light based on several factors. Avoiding monopoly accusations being one. Spotify’s pricing model being another (the iPhone app will only be available to premium subscribers so it’s far from a free-for-all). And then there’s Apple’s kludgy multitasking solution. The latter of which means that Spotify on iPhone will be unable to run in the background. Switch to a different app and the music stops.