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What is next for Spotify?

It's been a monster year for streaming music service Spotify. But what lies in store in 2010? Can it see off challenges from MySpace Music, Last.fm and more? And what new features might we see?

The big winner in the music world this year (apart from Rage Against the Machine, obviously) was Spotify. The music-streaming service signed up millions of users, launched some hugely well-received mobile apps and had the music industry purring at the prospect of a genuinely appealing alternative to piracy. Not to mention making a minor Internet folk hero out of one of its employees, the velvety-voiced Roberta.

But what's next for Spotify? 2010 will be a crucial year for the company, with challenges including more competition, global expansion and the need to start, y'know, making more money than it spends.

What's top of Spotify's new year's resolutions list?

Like many a European rock star before it, Spotify wants to break into the US. The company was hoping to launch there this year, but opted to bide its time while signing the necessary licensing deals with record labels, and figuring out how to scale its technology and business if tens of millions of Americans sign up on launch day. In theory, Spotify pays labels a set fee for every track streamed on its service -- so it has to hit the ground running there, even more so than on this side of the Atlantic.

What are its plans over here then?

The key task will be to persuade more users to switch from the free, ad-supported version to the tenner-a-month premium Spotify. It'll be a balancing act -- in 2009, the company focused on offering extra features like better audio quality, offline caching and its mobile application to Premium users. However, the flipside of this in 2010 would be to keep increasing the number of ads on the free version, which might get more users to upgrade, or might just annoy them so much they stop using the service.

What kind of new features might we see?

Spotify boss Daniel Ek said recently that the next big step forward for Spotify's service will be more social features and better recommendations. The company hasn't really focused on the social side so far, preferring to let external developers tinker with its API to create spin-off services. That'll change in 2010, as Spotify builds on the popularity of its collaborative playlist feature. The company will also go beyond its current 'you might like these artists' home screen recommendations, hopefully making Spotify better at finding new music that you genuinely might like.

What about mobile?

Spotify's iPhone, Android and Symbian apps have been critically acclaimed, and were the most persuasive reason to upgrade to a Premium account in 2009. Expect the company to roll out versions for any smart phone that becomes popular -- BlackBerry will surely be next, possibly tying in with the US launch of the service. Meanwhile, Spotify is keen to sign more deals with mobile operators along the lines of its partnership with 3 here in the UK, bundling a Premium subscription into the price of your monthly mobile contract.

Could it follow Last.fm on to the Xbox 360?

Very possibly. Spotify hasn't announced any deals with console makers yet, but it's certainly keen to -- albeit probably requiring a Premium subscription in the same way that the mobile apps do. The company will also be keeping a close eye on the new generation of connected TVs -- including the Project Canvas initiative -- as they may provide a route into the living room too. A little further off, but still intriguing, is the likelihood of in-car Spotify via deals with the automotive industry.

But it's not alone?

Certainly not. Here in the UK, Spotify already has rivals in the shape of We7 and Last.fm (which, in case you need to know, is owned by CNET UK's parent company CBS Interactive), not to mention the recently launched MySpace Music. When it does launch in the US, it'll also be going up against Pandora, which is as feted there for its online and mobile service as Spotify is here in Europe. There's also a dark horse in the form of Rdio, a new streaming music subscription service being launched by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom -- of Skype and (ahem) Kazaa fame.