It’s over for Lala, the music service that Apple bought last December. A note on the site says that it’s accepting no new registrations, and existing users will have until May 31 to take Lala for a few last spins.
The Web site began as a trading post for used CDs, but eventually became a streaming music service and MP3 store. Users could pay the usual rate of $1 per song for downloads, but the real lure was the ability to purchase unlimited streaming access to songs for 10 cents per track. Users could also listen to every song on the site once, for free, and they could transfer their existing music libraries into the cloud for access from any computer.
Lala doesn’t say why the site is shutting down. In fact, Apple’s reasons for purchasing the service remains a mystery. Tech watchers anticipate that Apple will update iTunes at some point to include streaming music, but that’s only based on an earlier rumor in the Wall Street Journal from January and industry speculation.
Lala had also developed an iPhone app, allowing users to listen to their streaming library on the road, but it was never released, for reasons unexplained. Ideally, the closure of Lala means that Apple will offer a streaming service that works on iPhone OS devices as well as computers.
Still, I’m not totally convinced that Apple has something in the pipeline. People who purchased streaming Web songs through Lala or have unspent credit will get the equivalent in iTunes credit, so it’s disconcerting that Lala users will have to trade whatever they invested in a streaming library for a fewer number of music downloads. If Apple does plan to release a streaming version of iTunes, it should have introduced the service simultaneously with Lala’s closure, giving Lala users a similar service with the music they already paid for.