mSpot launches cloud-based iTunes streaming via iPhone

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Cloud entertainment provider mSpot introduced a version of its streaming music service optimized for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, enabling users to access their iTunes library on the go. The solution allows consumers to upload their music to the mSpot Cloud and immediately begin listening across desktop browsers as well as iPhones and iPad tablets--mSpot offers free cloud storage for the first 2 gigabytes (roughly 1600 songs), with an additional 40 gigabytes of storage available for $3.99 per month. According to mSpot, the service also exports playlist, metadata, cover art and related iTunes content, delivering continuous playback regardless of cellular coverage quality--an additional Airplane mode allows users to play cached songs even when connectivity is disabled, while a "streaming only" option frees up storage for users who wish to clear space for other mobile media.

Many pundits expected Apple to introduce its own streaming iTunes service sometime in 2010, but the project is apparently on hold. Reports surfaced this summer indicating that Apple has yet to negotiate the licensing agreements necessary to offer a streaming music solution--multiple questions also surround the status of technologies and executives acquired late last year with Apple's purchase of streaming music startup Lala, a deal rumored to be valued at $85 million. Lala is believed to be the key to the streaming iTunes service--offering consumers access to more than 8 million fully licensed songs for free, without ads or subscriptions, its model instead limited users to one listen for each song or album. Consumers also could purchase unlimited plays of songs for 10 cents, or DRM-free MP3 downloads for 89 cents each. Apple reportedly purchased Lala expressly to acquire the startup's engineering staff and their collective expertise with cloud-based music technology, and shut down the service on May 31.

Some insiders believe Apple has delayed its cloud service plans to expand the initiative into video streaming--sources inside Hollywood studios indicate Apple plans to offer "digital shelves" enabling consumers to store movies and television content on the company's servers. Others speculate the holdup is directly related to the server farm Apple is building in North Carolina, scheduled for completion by the end of 2010--multiple sources have said the servers will make up the backbone of the cloud solution.

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