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Will Apple announce a free music streaming service next week?

Says Mashable, "Apple is supposedly talking with the top four major labels about offering a free streaming music service to consumers."

In other words, now that Apple has acquired music streaming service Lala, it may theoretically provide you the capability of moving your iTunes music collection "to the cloud," where it will be freed of the constraints of your device and presumably available across any gadget that can access it.

This could have several effects:

1.  It will increase the value of the collection and the mechanism whereby that collection is gathered, stored, and distributed.  In other words, the content and its distribution will gain value, the gadget will lose value.

2.  It will turn all kinds of consumer items into iTunes receivers which were not considered so before.

3.  It will diminish the difference between existing streaming services (customizable or otherwise) and your own iTunes collection.

4.  It will warm up the market for the "behavior" of streaming.  What we see today in streaming usage is the tiny tip of the iceberg that will come if and when all those iTunes users are stream-enabled.

5.  It will magnify the importance of "unique and compelling content" being central to the online streaming experience, since that content will now be in direct competition with the music you choose and buy yourself on iTunes.

6.  The consumer acceptance that would follow such a move would accelerate the momentum among automakers to provide streaming capability in new cars.

7.  It will further pressure radio to do one of two things:  Either invest a lot less and become a ubiquitous but diminishing music utility, or invest a lot more and provide the kind of unique and compelling content which can capture and sustain an audience regardless of what's on Pandora, regardless of what's on iTunes.

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