TechCrunch this morning has a guest post by MP3.com founder Michael Robertson on what Apple plans to do with Lala.com. Contrary to some predictions, Apple doesn't plan to have a subscription based service according to Robertson. Instead, he sees Apple using Lala's ability to upload music to the cloud, classify it, and then play music from a browser. Any browser including a smartphone browser....
What is of value is the personal music storage service which was an often overlooked component of Lala’s business. As Apple did with the original iPods, Lala realized that any music solution must include music already possessed by the user. The Lala setup process provides software to store a personal music library online and then play it from any web browser alongside web songs they vend. This technology plus the engineering and management team is the true value of Lala to Apple.That's a lot of storage space. Consider some colleagues that have 100GB+ music collections. If Apple wants to index everyone's full collection, they'll have to have some ability to cross reference music built in. For instance if two peole both own the Beatles White album, Apple should just point both users to the same music database rather than storing both users' music separately. Or perhaps they'll only offer to "Cloud" music that is purchased from iTunes?
That being said, it might be hard for Apple to differentiate between different CD rips (different encodings, name changes, meta data etc.) so the same song may look similar to any computer algorithm that is trying to group music. Robertson isn't phased by music collection size:
An upcoming major revision of iTunes will copy each user’s catalog to the net making it available from any browser or net connected ipod/touch/tablet. The Lala upload technology will be bundled into a future iTunes upgrade which will automatically be installed for the 100+ million itunes users with a simple “An upgrade is available…” notification dialog box. After installation iTunes will push in the background their entire media library to their personal mobile iTunes area. Once loaded, users will be able to navigate and play their music, videos and playlists from their personal URL using a browser based iTunes experience.In any case, this type of system is going to require some serious datacenter space. Much more than Apple currently deploys with MobileMe iDisk use. That means we're probably seeing why Apple purchased that North Carolina data facility.