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Apple?s me-too Music service fails to address central issues

Apple yesterday unveiled plans to own an even bigger part of the mobile user?s day at its annual conference for developers with a reinvigorated push into music, news and search, but many of the reveals seemed more me-too than groundbreaking.  

As expected, at the WWDC 15 event, Apple released an update for watchOS, its operating system for the Apple Watch, with a focus on helping developers create better applications while the announcement of deep linking for iOS 9 is sure to be welcomed by mobile marketers. For the last major announcement of the day, Apple unveiled its long-anticipated Apple Music service, combining a personalized streaming service with live radio and social networking for $10 per month  

?It seems to be something about the right song at the right time on demand but really it just sounded like radio and YouTube and Songkick and SoundCloud and Spotify,? said Martin McNulty, CEO of Forward3D. 
?What's staggering about the Apple Music miss is that it's singularly failed to address the central issue facing artists, namely rights and payments,? he said. ?Artists don't care that they have multiple distribution platforms to manage, they care that they aren't earning money for recordings or they aren't in control of their performance rights.? 

Yesterday, Apple introduced Apple Music, combining a streaming music service with a live radio station and a way for music fans to connect with their favorite artists. 

Users can stream any song, album or playlist or have Apple Music curate a selection for them. The company has hired music experts to create playlists based on users? preferences. 

Siri has also been integrated, enabling users to ask the voice-activated personal assistant to play the best songs from a specific year or the theme song from a popular movie. 

Beats 1 is a live radio station dedicated entirely to music and music culture. It will offer exclusive interviews, guest hosts and stations curated by leading DJs across a range of styles. 

Apple Music Connect enables artists to share content, including lyrics, backstage photos, videos or a song. Users can comment or like anything an artist has posted, share via social media and email, with artists able to respond directly to a user. 

Apple Music goes live on June 30. Following a three-month free subscription period, the cost of subscribing will be $9.99 per month or $14.99 for up to six family members. 

Breaking news
Apple?s new News app is interactive, providing a personalized feed based on a user?s reading preferences. Articles from a variety of sources will appear in magazine format, with users able to swipe to move to the next story. 

Publishers will keep 100 percent of the ad revenue of ads they sell for stories in the News app. Apple will sell other ads with publishers getting a share. 

Apple?s launch partners for the news service are New York Times, ESPN and Conde Nast. 

Deep linking
One piece of news from yesterday with implications for mobile marketers is that deep links will be built into iOS 9 ? which will debut in the fall - enabling apps using Apple?s APIs to surface their content in iPhone search results. 

As mobile search continues to grow at the same time that the content inside apps is getting richer, enabling mobile searchers to access in-app content is a must for ensuring best-in-class experiences.  

Google has been providing something similar for Android users and recently announced it would enable app indexing on iOS for Google searches (see story). 

?The most imminently actionable news from the Apple announcements is that iOS 9 is going to support deep linking,? said Shuli Lowy, marketing director of mobile at Ping Mobile. ?Mobile marketers spend a lot of time mapping out the customer journey within their applications. 

?App performance is often measured by a whole host of metrics and each marketer is looking for his/her form of a conversion,? she said. ?The longer the pathway to that conversion is the less likely consumers are to complete it. 

?Deep linking allows marketers to shorten that process. Instead of always having to start at the home page, consumers can access what they?re looking for faster - providing a smoother UX and more actionability. It?s great news for mobile marketers.?

Apple also moved its mobile payments aspirations forward significantly with the news that Passbook will be renamed Wallet and, with iOS 9, loyalty cards as well as store cards will work with Apple Pay. 

Loyalty partners will include Dunkin Donuts and Walgreens. Store card partners will include BJ?s, Kohl?s and JCPenney. 

Apple Pay is also teaming up with Square to launch a new reader and which will be sold at Apple Stores.

Another new feature available with iOS 9 is the Transit app, which will show buses and trains in 30 cities in the United States.

Apple Watch
Apple Watch was launched earlier this year and quickly attracted a number of third-party apps. However, some initial limitations in how much of the operating system developers could access has hampered the user experience somewhat (see story). 

Apple is hoping to help developers create better Watch apps with a WatchKit update enabling the user interface of an app to live natively on a watch, reducing the dependence on having an iPhone nearby. Developers will also be able to play audio through the watch and short-form video. 

Additionally, developers can access the watch?s tactic technology to add touch feedback to their apps and leverage the device?s digital crown. 

?It?s hard to get excited about some of Apple?s announcements when their competitors have been doing it for years,? Ms. Lowy said. ?Apple?s announcement of finally incorporating public transit directions is nice but we?ve all been accessing that for years through Google and others. 

?We all remember that scathing New Yorker cover that showed us how different Apple and Google maps are,? she said. ?We?d expect Apple to innovate rather to announce that they?ve taken a step towards a very late catch up. 

?As per music streaming, Apple came to that market years after its competitors. It?s first introduction failed to provide any significant competitive advantage and it?s hard to build one up when other music streaming services have already spent years refining personal playlist tastes.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York