A couple months back, Apple introduced its very first Android app—a way to automate the process of letting Android users switch over to iOS devices. Now Apple’s back with a second Android app, which will also support switchers—though in a different way.
TechCrunch reports that yesterday, Apple launched a beta version of Apple Music for Android in all countries where it offers the service, save for China (which will launch soon). The app will allow Apple Music subscribers to access the music service, as well as any prior iTunes digital music purchases, from Android devices.
Perhaps most surprisingly from an Apple application (at least, to the Windows users used to seeing iTunes’s brushed metal sticking out like a sore thumb amid their other Windows programs), the app will partake of Android’s user interface schema—the “hamburger” menu icon and all the other elements familiar to Android users. Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue explained they wanted experienced Android users to be able to interact with it just as they would with any other Android app.
Cue virtuously explains that, since music is global, they want to be able to “bring it to as broad an audience as possible.” Although Cue doesn’t put it this way, it seems pretty clear that, as badly as Android is beating iOS in market share, if Apple wants to make a go of its service it’s going to have to make it possible for everyone to use it. This might mean that people who switch away from iOS can use it on Android—but given what their other Android app is for, I suspect they’re also hoping that perhaps they can get some Android users hooked on their music service and then entice them to switch to iOS. Who knows? It could happen. Tim Cook has said that 30% of new iPhone buyers are switching over from Android.
It’s not exactly the first time Apple has made cross-platform overtures connected to music, after all. Way back when the only iPods had touch-wheels and black-and-white LCD screens, Apple introduced iTunes for Windows so that the iPod could be available to everyone, not just Macintosh users. That led, in turn, to the iPod’s wider adoption by everyone, making it the gold standard of MP3 players and subsequently ushering in the iPhone and iPod Touch and a whole new revolution in smartphones and tablets. Given that digital music is such an important part of what remade struggling boutique computer manufacturer Apple into a major consumer media company, it’s not surprising they would want to “reach across the aisle” with it.
But perhaps the more interesting question from a TeleRead standpoint is whether this might presage Apple reaching over to Android with other media stores. Might there be an iBooks for Android at some point? Well, we can always hope, but I’m skeptical. Despite Steve Jobs’s pie-in-the-sky predictions when he was masterminding the agency pricing conspiracy, e-books have never been as big a thing for Apple as music. The way that they can only be read on Apple products hasn’t helped.
Certainly, if Apple were to make iBooks available for Android, in the hope of enticing switchers, that would help, but it may already be too late for people who’ve already made major investments from other vendors. One of the other things about music is that, with a streaming service, it really doesn’t matter who you buy it from if you can get mostly the same music anywhere—and it doesn’t matter where you buy your digitally-downloaded music from, given that it’s mostly DRM-free now. But e-books do have DRM, which leads to consumer lock-in—and Apple doesn’t even have a subscription e-book service like Kindle Unlimited.
That being said, it will be nice if Apple should decide Android folks deserve their shot at iBooks, but I’m not holding my breath.