Tag Archives | Lala

Color: Share Photos With Those Around You–Automatically and Instantly

Back in November, entrepreneur Bill Nguyen–the founder of Lala and other companies–bought himself a cool domain name: Color.com. Now his new startup is announcing a cool free app to go with it: Color, a photo- and video-sharing program for iPhone and Android handsets. It should be available for both platforms tonight.

While I’ve met with the company, received a demo, and played with the app a bit, I haven’t had extensive hands-on time with the service. So this isn’t a review. But I’ve seen enough to know that Color is a fresh take on the seemingly well-trodden concept of photo/video sharing; it’s nothing at all like Flickr or Instagram or Path or other services you might be using. And if it lives up to its potential it could be a big hit.

Like umpteen other apps, Color lets you snap and share photos and videos. But instead of sharing them with people you specify, it shares them with people near you–and if those people are using the Color app to capture stuff, you can see it, too. It all happens in real time in one shared stream, without anyone involved having to do anything except shoot photos. And it creates a group-created visual record of events large (like a concert or a conference) and small (a birthday party or a dinner out).

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Lala's Lost, But is it Missed?

Over at CNet, Greg Sandoval’s inside sources say Apple’s setting low expectations for cloud music, and hasn’t yet acquired licenses to stream songs from its own servers.

In other words, the assumption that Apple acquired Lala to build its own streaming music service won’t pan out anytime soon. The Lala crew may actually be working on some sort of streaming video service instead, Sandoval’s sources say. Apple acquired Lala in December 2009, and shut it down in late May.

We’ve written about Lala quite a few times, because it took such a unique approach to digital music. In addition to selling MP3s, Lala sold streaming tracks for 10 cents each, and let you listen to any song once for free. It could also scan your entire downloaded music library and store a cloud version to be accessed anywhere. For Apple to offer any of those services, it needs more licensing from the music industry, and Apple reportedly hasn’t negotiated for that yet.

But as I look at the digital music landscape now, I don’t think Lala is really necessary. All-you-can-eat music services have emerged from Rhapsody, MOG and now Rdio, all of them offering mobile and desktop access for $10 per month, with the ability to download songs locally. That’s a lot more convenient than building a streaming library of individual tracks, and could be more economical for music junkies. If you just want to hear a song once for free, you can accomplish that with music search tools from Google and Bing.

As for the digital locker concept, how essential is it? Music doesn’t take up a lot of room, and storage capacity on mobile devices is only increasing. I’d rather see Apple focus on streaming video, because movies and TV shows are much more unwieldy to store and transfer. Although I was sad to see Lala go, I’m not desperate for it to come back.


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Lala: Now With Zombie Mode!

When it comes to the closure of the spectacular Lala music service, I’m still working my way through the five stages of grief. For the first time since Lala went bye-bye at the end of last month, I idly launched its iPhone application. (The company never released it, but it gave me a prerelease version in November, less than a month before Apple snapped up Lala and chose not to release the iPhone app it had just acquired.)

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Lala Goes Bye-Bye

It’s June 1st, and it’s official: Apple has shuttered Lala, the wonderful music service which it bought back in December. Analyzing Apple’s motivations and predicting its actions is usually a horrible mistake, but I would think that the fact Lala went away a week before a Steve Jobs WWDC keynote is not a promising sign–if Apple was prepping to turn Lala into iTunes.com, wouldn’t it want to turn all those Lala subscribers into charter members of the new service rather than telling them their accounts are no more? I could, of course, be wrong–and I hope I am.


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May 31st: The Day the Lala Music Dies

Sad but in no way surprising: Apple is shutting down Lala, the excellent music service it bought last December. Lala has already stopped accepting new members; existing customers have access until the end of next month.

Unfortunately, Apple is continuing a long tradition of shuttered online services leaving customers who “bought” stuff at least partially in the lurch. It’s telling people who bought streaming Web songs that they’ll get an iTunes Store credit for the amount they spent “in appreciation of [their] support.”  But there’s no equivalent at the iTunes Store for Web songs, which played only online but only cost a dime apiece, so the credit is more akin to a discount. I hope nobody blew too much money on Web songs thinking that he or she was assembling a music collection of any permanence.

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More Lala Speculation

Demented genius entrepreneur Michael Robertson thinks that Apple bought Lala to help it quickly offer a service that puts iTunes users’ existing music collections in the cloud. Makes sense that he’d think that makes sense: He founded MP3.com, which offered a similar service almost exactly a decade ago. (It was wonderful–and the music companies successfully sued it out of business almost immediately.)


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Google Has Good News for Lala Fans. Apple Isn’t Talking.

Some of us are a wee bit fixated on the fate of nifty music service Lala now that it’s part of Apple. Peter Burroughs has a story in BusinessWeek with a hopeful-sounding headline: “Apple Will Let Google Continue Using Lala.” It refers to the agreement between Google and Lala that puts links to free Lala music (and purchase options) in some of Google’s music-related search results.

After reading Burroughs’ story, I’m not so sure how hopeful to feel. Google’s RJ Pittman told him that Apple and Google “are agreeing to continue to leave the service as is” and that Lala will “remain live for the forseeable future.” But it’s Apple that’s going to determine Lala’s future–and Apple spokesman Steve Downling’s only comment to Burroughs was that Apple doesn’t comment on acquisitions.

So I’m left with all the same questions I’ve had since news of the acquisition broke.

How much (if any) of Lala will make its way into iTunes and/or other Apple services such as MobileMe? Lala lets you buy streaming only-songs for a dime apiece (and listen to them via an interface that already looks like iTunes in your browser); it gives you access to streaming versions of songs you possess in MP3 form; and it has some cool community features that let you peek at what your pals are listening to. A Lala-ized iTunes could be wonderful, but it’s also possible that Apple bought Lala for its engineering talent, not its service.

Will the Lala site and service continue on? It’s hard to believe that Apple would just leave it as. Over time, it’s surely either going to get sucked into iTunes, or cease to exist.

Will Apple put Lala’s impressive iPhone app on the iPhone App Store? (“Approve” doesn’t feel like the right word when you’re talking about a piece of software now owned by Apple.) It’s not necessarily a terrible sign if it doesn’t show up–Apple may merely be so excited about the app that it’s working on an Apple-ized version.

Will the Google deal continue on? I hope so, but I won’t be traumatized if it doesn’t–in part because Google has a similar arrangement with iLike.

Apple almost certainly isn’t going to share any of its intentions for Lala–whatever happens will just  happen. Building any of the service’s capabilities into iTunes would take a while, so I’m not going to feel downright pessimistic until (A) any aspects of Lala in its current form go away, and /or (B) major new releases of iTunes and/or the iPhone arrive with no signs of Lala influence. In the short term, no news may well be good news…


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Apple May Buy Lala? That Could be Very, Very Good. Or Very, Very Bad

Rumor on the Internet today has it that Apple is in “advanced ” talks to buy one of my favorite music services, Lala. Even if the conversation is real, it doesn’t mean it’ll amount to anything. But anyone who’s ever used Lala can grasp why Steve Jobs & Co. might be tempted to make it their own.

The company has an oddball history that includes a period as a CD-swapping service and a foray into radio, but for over a year, it’s focused on pretty much being what iTunes might be if it were an entirely Web-based service. You can buy streaming-only songs for a dime apiece, but the first listen to any song is free. Like the late, lamented original MP3.com, Lala replicates your music collection on its servers so you can listen to it anywhere–but Lala does so much more easily…and it does so legally. It wraps everything up in a user interface that looks like iTunes’ browser-based twin brother, and adds hooks to services such as Facebook and Google.

After much delay, the company recently finished work on a new product that would make its ties to Apple even closer: an iPhone app that brings most of the Web-based service to Apple’s smartphone. Lala has submitted it to Apple but it’s not yet approved for App Store distribution. However, it gave me a prerelease copy for review, and it’s as spectacular as the Web version–all of a sudden, the iPhone’s relatively skimpy memory isn’t nearly as much of an issue, since you can stream all the music you’ve got in iTunes on a PC or Mac to your phone. You can also listen to and buy songs from Lala’s 8-million song store. It’s all surprisingly fast for a streaming service, and it even caches recent music you’ve listened to so you’re not completely out of luck if you don’t have an Internet connection.

I’m fond of multiple iPhone music apps (Slacker is one favorite), but Lala is the most interesting one to date.

So why, specifically, might Apple want to snag Lala? Cnet’s Greg Sandoval gives two reasons: Lala founder Bill Nguyen is a smart entrepreneur (true) and Lala’s billing system might save Apple a ton of cash (possibly true, but profoundly tedious). I’d love to think that Apple might merge all of Lala’s goodness into iTunes itself, creating a seamless experience across Mac, PC, iPhone, and iPod. But I’m also concerned that if the service itself isn’t what has Apple excited, it might just go away. (It may be the first iPhone music app that’s good enough that it could cut into sales of songs on iTunes.)

After the jump, some screen shots of Lala for iPhone in action. One way or another, I hope you get to try it soon…

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Lala for iPhone: Soon, Hopefully!

Lala LogoA little over a year ago, I wrote about Lala’s extremely nifty music service and mentioned a version for the iPhone which the company said would be available soon. I couldn’t wait to use it…but “soon” never arrived.

But it sounds like “soon” may come…soon. Wired’s Eliot Van Buskirk reports that Lala expects its iPhone app to be available in the iTunes App Store by the end of the year. It’s contingent on Apple approving it, of course, and I can’t quite tell from Eliot’s story whether Lala has already submitted the app or just expects to do so shortly. But it sounds like it’s Lala for the iPhone with all the goodness I saw back in 2008: The ability to buy streaming-only songs for a dime apiece and downloadable ones at cheap prices–and to stream music that’s already in your library from Lala’s servers for free.

Lala told Wired that the app will also cache the last few hundred songs you’ve listened to on the iPhone, which would help address the one major limitation of music streaming: It doesn’t work when your device isn’t connected.

Lala’s been in the news a lot this week: On Wednesday, it announced an app that lets Facebook users give Lala music to their pals, and it has news coming next week that reportedly involves its music showing up in Google results.

I don’t think there’s such a thing as a music service that’ll make everybody happy all the time–at least not until someone comes up with one that lets you stream or download all the music you want and keep it forever for free. But between iTunes and Sirius XM and Rhapsody and Slacker and Pandora and umpteen other services, iPhone owners have access to more music via more types of services than users of any other handheld device. Now if Apple would just make it possible to listen to music delivered via non-Apple apps in the background while you’re using other apps…


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More About Google Audio

Google AudioThis morning’s rumor about Google launching a music service is gradually getting rounded out. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch has blogged about a LaLa and iLike press event scheduled for next Wednesday that he says involves the incorporation of those companies’ music services into Google results. Search for an artist on Google, and you’ll be able to stream music (for free, at least the first time around?) and download it (for  pay?) via relationships with the two music companies. Greg Sandoval of Cnet has a few more details, and says the news doesn’t involve Google unveiling a true music service of its own.

This doesn’t sound like a transformative moment for Google or for music. Actually, as described by Arrington and Sandoval, it sounds at least generally similar to a fun feature Yahoo has offered for a couple of years through a partnership with Rhapsody. (In Yahoo’s version, you can listen to 25 songs a month for free.)

Miles Davis

Maybe there’s more to this than we know about just yet. But for now, the aspect of the deal I’m happiest about is the possibility of it putting some money in LaLa’s corporate pockets. It’s a wonderful service, and I hope it’s financially successful enough to stick around for a long time to come.


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