Apple goes against grain, lets Beats Music live on Android and Windows Phone

Support for rival platforms gives Apple the chance to tempt people into switching, says analyst

Apple will continue to offer Beats Music apps for Android and Windows Phone after it closes the deal to acquire the streaming music service and Beats Electronics, the maker of a line of popular high-end audio headphones and speakers.

Speaking at Code/Conference, a conference run by Re/Code, the website founded by the team that once hosted All Things Digital for the Wall Street Journal, Apple executive Eddie Cue said yesterday that the apps would continue to be developed and supported.

The Beats Music apps were last updated on May 22 (Windows Phone) and May 28 (Android, iOS). Thursday's Android and iOS updates extended the previous 7-day free trial to 14 days, and reduced the annual subscription to $99.99 from $119.99, a 17% price cut.

Beats Music, launched in the U.S. at the end of January, is a music streaming service along the lines of Spotify in that it offers access to millions of tracks and albums, and lets customers play an unlimited amount of music.

Cue -- who leads Apple's Internet software and services group -- will be responsible for Beats Music. Both co-founders of Beats Electronics, noted record executive and producer Jimmy Iovine, and rapper and entrepreneur Dr. Dre, will join Apple as employees and report to Cue.

The $3 billion deal, most of that in cash with some stock to vest over time, should close later this year, Apple has said.

Beats Music touts it music curation as a differentiator from rivals like Spotify, Rhapsody and others. In interviews with several publications yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook cited the curation as a reason why Apple wanted the service.

"We've got a streaming service that we believe is the first to get it right," Cook told the Financial Times ( registration required). "They had the insight that human curation was very important.... We think they've done an A-plus job."

By continuing to support Android and Windows Phone, Apple goes against its grain. Traditionally, it closes cross-platform access to software and services it buys; Apple's revenue comes primarily from hardware sales and its main motivation in all it does is to sell more iPhones, iPads and Macs.

But Beats Music is still in its infancy: At Code/Conference yesterday, Iovine said that the service had 250,000 paying subscribers, less than 3% of Spotify's 10 million. If Apple wants Beats to grow its paying accounts, it means bowing to the reality that Android is the world's dominant mobile operating system.

And it's as much an opportunity as a reversal of past practice, said Ben Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.

"What makes this interesting is, for Android in particular, that service could serve as the first experience with an Apple product for hundreds of millions and soon to be billions of potential customers," Bajarin wrote today on Techpinions. "I would argue that Apple paved the way for their future success in iPhone and iPad by bringing iTunes to Windows. It helped get iPods in the hands of millions of people who never owned an Apple product. Much great research exists that point out that once a customer tries one of your products they strongly consider more in the future."

The Beats Music app is available on Apple's App Store, Google Play and the Windows Phone Store.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile apps in Computerworld's Mobile Apps Topic Center.

Tags AppleBeats ElectronicsSpotifyconsumer electronicsAndroidsmartphoneswall street journalmobile appsWindows Phone

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