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Apple eats Lala: Now what?

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The big music-tech news of the weekend was that Apple has purchased Lala.com. Apple, of course, makes your laptop, your portable music device, your phone, and your iTunes Music Store — well, maybe not yours personally, but lots of folks’. Lala is an online music streaming site that lets users listen to any song once for free, then charges 10 cents a pop for the right to stream it endlessly, or a bit more if you want to download an MP3. Even if you’re not a Lala customer, you may be familiar with their streams since they started showing up prominently on Google searches this fall.

So what does this deal mean for you, the consumer? Right now it’s difficult to say. Bloomberg News quotes one expert saying the move “may signal that Apple is more interested in creating a subscription service,” since Lala users’ streaming songs stay on Lala servers instead of their own hard drives. A New York Times story, however, said this deal happened because Lala’s business model wasn’t working out (“a bit too complex for many Web users”), and that Apple was really only buying its talented creative team. We’ll have to wait and see which of those reports, if either, is correct.

In the meantime, speculate away! What do you think Apple wants to do with Lala? Do you use either Lala or iTunes to buy music, or both? Do you think Lala’s model is clever enough to be worth integrating into the iTunes system somehow, or was it so confusing that it makes sense to fold the company into iTunes?

UPDATE: An Apple spokesperson released the following statement when asked about the deal: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not comment on our purpose or plans.”

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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