So Why Did Apple Approve Spotify’s iPhone App?

So they did it: Spotify got their iPhone app approved and it is available today (as is the Android app).  I won’t pretend I’m not surprised.  I felt this competed too directly with core iTunes music player functionality for Apple to approve it.  And of course Spotify isn’t even available to the vast majority of Apple customers so they wouldn’t be affected by lack of availability to kick up a fuss.

So just why did Apple approve it?  Well my take is that this reinforces Apple’s play as a platform, albeit a heavily controlled one.  They want to ensure that the iPhone and iPods are the places where you can find the best music experiences.  Last.FM, Pandora et al enhance and deepen that music experience.  Spotify will also.  But Apple is a company that is as sharp as they come and this is a very calculated move.  The Spotify app is free to download by only works for Spotify customers that pay 9.99 a month.  So it is only going to be a pretty small number of people who’ll actually get exposed to this, a tiny tiny fraction of Apple’s installed base of portable device customers.   So Apple get to look inclusive and welcoming, with minimal impact on their business.

The other possibility of course is that Apple has some new music service up its sleeve that would make the Spotify app look obsolete….and oh look, there’s a music themed announcement by Apple on Wednesday…

9 thoughts on “So Why Did Apple Approve Spotify’s iPhone App?

  1. I did wonder whether is was anything to do with the clout of the Big Four record labels behind Spotify? Maybe that’s just a conspiracy theory but I expected it would be in the interest of these labels to have Spotify approved. They could easily have hinted to Apple that they might remove their content from iTunes (which would effectively kill it off) if they did not approve Spotify.

  2. Interesting idea. There are so many possible conspiracy theory angles that the mind boggles, not least of which is the SEC investigation into the app store

  3. My guess is that Apple’s issue with other music players (and other core function replicators) has been with the storing of songs (or podcasts, contacts, etc) on the device (i.e. locally) in places other than the iPod app (or Contacts app). This leads to confusion over where a person’s content is, and one app not being able to use content from both places.

    It seems to me that Apple has usually approved apps that replicate core functions if those apps only used the web/cloud for “storage.”

  4. Considering Pandora, LastFM and other apps have been on the iPhone from the beginning, the bigger question is why did so many commentators think Apple would disallow Spotify?

    Perhaps too many bloggers have gotten into the habit of thinking the worst of Apple without the facts to back it up?

    -Mart

  5. Its funny how popular it is to think that Apple is up to something or is turning evil.

    I’m glad they are strict. That is why the Mac software experience has always been so consistent. The app store should be no different in regards to the demand for quality.

    Just another lazy blog in my mind.

  6. The key is in the fact that since the very first day of the iTunes marketplace, Apple has made its money on the hardware. The music has been a loss-leader for which they make very little money. Spotify is just an extension of this business model. It is the killer app that justifies the upgrade from a classic iPod to the Touch/iPhone. It makes it worthwhile for people to buy the more expensive, larger capacity models. It is the obvious future of music and Apple has everything to gain and nothing to lose.

  7. To address a few of the points above:

    Spotify differs massively from Last.FM and Pandora as neither are on-demand, but instead personalized radio. Additionally the Spotify application is much more heavily integrated into the iTunes core functionality than those two.

    Also, the Spotify app offers off-line music i.e. music that is stored on the device, not in the cloud.

    Apple’s iTunes model is a closed-loop ecosystem over which it enjoys complete control. That is not to suggest in the slightest that Apple’s motives are negative. Rather that all decisions are pure business decisions that are taken to ensure that the ecosystem remains viable and vibrant. The most direct comparison is with the xBox, Playstation and Wii ecosystems. Apple has taken a decision here to enhance the ecosystem to sell more devices. Music sales were only ever a Proof of Concept to demonstrate the value proposition of the device.

  8. or maybe Spotify paid Apple? that’s another take…or Spotify pays Apple a certain percentage of the people who’ve signed up off the back of downloading the app….

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