The excited reporting in the FT today of Spotify’s most recent fund-raising round raises the question of whether the upstart freemium subscription service might actually represent a challenge to the mighty iTunes.
The question is no doubt weighing heavily in the minds of the Apple executives who are to make a decision whether to accept the Spotify iPhone app into the hallowed portal of the iPhone App store.
Having raised the ire of the FTC earlier this week by rejecting Google’s talk app – which would enable voice over ip on the iPhone and threaten Apple Telco partners AT&T’s business model, they now have to ask themselves which is the greater risk – stopping Spotify and possibly incurring further Federal Trade wrath or letting in a possible competitor to the mighty lynchpin of their own content sales effort?
Of course, arguably the value of iTunes as a sales channel is much less than its role as the cement between the user and the i-devices that sell for lots of money, but recurrent revenue from content over time has got to be attractive – particularly with the new high priced codename “cocktail” service sitting in the wings alongside new devices which, if the rumour mill is to be believed include: a souped up ipod touch with microphone and a new tablet netbook.
So are the aptly named Li Ka Shing Foundation, simply Kashing in (sorry!) on the success to date of Spotify, are Wellington partners to enjoy a Waterloo at Apple’s expense? Will the US of A adopt Spotify with open arms? The opportunities are exciting, the platform is subtly sophisticated with its simple interface and its powerful backend p2p infrastructure. And the move into neighbouring verticals of film, tv and even games are all so alluring to the beady eyed investor. But of course, Spotify still has to raise enough advertising revenue to interfere with its free service just enough to give people the incentive to upgrade to the paid subscription service – no easy shout in a recession where ad spending has been sliding over the cliff. So this is an exciting company – but now it’s not all down to execution – it’s also about how Apple chooses to respond to the invitation to joust.