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Spotify gets Apple's blessing...who's next?

Apple confirms the approval of the Spotify subscription music application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Donald Bell speculates on other services that may follow.

Spotify's much-hyped streaming-music service has been given the green light by Apple's iPhone app approval board, according to a report from U.K.'s Paid Content. Though the Spotify app has yet to officially surface in the iTunes App Store, an Apple spokesman made it clear that the app would be available "very soon."

Spotify logo.

While the news is sure to excite Spotify's current user base in Europe and the U.K., music fans in the U.S. have yet to experience what all the fuss is about, since the service is currently blocked on this side of the pond. Rumors abound that Spotify plans to open its doors to America before the year is though, but until then, the availability of an iPhone app isn't doing us much good.

Beyond fanning the flames of American curiosity over Spotify, news of the app's approval demonstrates an intriguing change of tactics for Apple. For years, Apple has worked to dodge efforts to bring subscription music content to the iPod--specifically attempts from Rhapsody and Napster. And though Spotify bills itself as a free music-streaming service (a la Pandora), its iPhone app is available only to premium subscribers willing to pay a monthly fee of approximately $15. In short, the Spotify iPhone app marks the entrance of subscription music apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

So what does this mean for other subscription music services? Well, we know Rhapsody has a similar app in the works. Depending on how soon Spotify can get its service up and running in the States, Rhapsody may actually be the first to have a subscription music app that works in America.

We've yet to hear a peep from Napster regarding an iPhone app. If Napster jumps on the bandwagon, though, it stands to offer the best bargain if it can leverage its new $5 monthly subscription plan. That said, considering that Napster's mobile subscription plan is priced the same as Rhapsody's ($15), it stands to reason they're being held to similar licensing agreements and won't be able to undercut Rhapsody or Spotify on an iPhone-compatible plan.

Zune logo

The third subscription music service contender, ironically, is Microsoft's Zune Pass. It's a long shot, but I wouldn't count it out. Microsoft has made it clear in the past its plans for the Zune go far beyond the Zune hardware. Already, we're seeing the Zune Video Maketplace pop-up on the Xbox 360 gaming console, and suggestions that Zune content will makes its way to Windows Mobile phones in upcoming generations. If Microsoft's goal is to get people hooked on the Zune experience, with or without the Zune hardware, an iPhone application might prove a novel method for recruiting new customers (assuming Apple would allow it).

Anyone who caught this week's MP3 Insider podcast may have also heard my hopes for an iPhone app from Lala. Unlike subscription music services, Lala allows users to subscribe to songs and albums a la carte at a dime per song. It's a brilliant little system for people who do the majority of their listening at the computer, but it seems equally suitable for an always-connected device like the iPhone (check out the Lala app demo below).

If you would have asked me six months ago if Apple would let Lala push through an iPhone app, I would have laughed at you. But then, I would have laughed if you had said Rhapsody, too. Fortunately, it looks as though times are changing and Apple may be more focused on the strength and breadth of its app offerings than on guarding music sales. Music fans, rejoice.

(Via Paid Content)