Apple Rumored to Unleash iRadio

Here's what we know about the iRadio. Like the Music app, it'll appear as an icon on your iPad, iPhone and iWhateverElse. You'll pick out songs, have a listen, and in return, it'll develop an ear (geddit?) for your taste. You'll be able to select genres, decades, artists - or just sit back, relax and let the iRadio take you on a musical journey. And most importantly, like all things Apple, iRadio is already poised for world domination.

Tipped to make our acquaintance on Monday at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (where we met the iPhone, thus beginning our rocky but committed relationship), the iRadio is entering an arena already populated by several big names. Google launched Google Play Music All Access just a few weeks ago, and word on the street has Amazon also jumping aboard the music-streaming train. All three companies hope to climb on the shoulders of wildly successful song-streamers Pandora and Spotify, but it seems that while Google's chosen a Spotify-esque route; iRadio's methodology is closer to Pandora.

As for poor Pandora, the company's reaction must be something akin to a big fish seeing a shark invade its small pond. As sources increasingly fueled the iRadio rumors last week, Pandora saw its stocks slump by 11% - and that's before any official word from Apple. On Friday, it was confirmed that the Sony, Universal Music and Warner Music have already partnered with iRadio. Somewhere, Pandora groaned.

But what about Google? Yes, the company has an edge just by owning Android - at last count, Android occupied half of the entire smartphone market. More Androids mean more heads using Google Play, the iTunes-like service Google launched in late 2011. Google's olive branch here is that it will partner with iOS (Apple's cross-platform operating system), so that Google Play can appear on Apple products as well.

Google's approach to music streaming has been called "toe-in-the-water" and small-scale, whereas Apple is likely to go for a big, fat splash. After all. it's never been a better time to be a music-streaming platform: a February study confirmed that streaming music is the fourth most popular media activity, after social networking, games, and news (!). At present, you can buy 10 songs on iTunes for $10 - or you could go to Spotify and enjoy 600 of them. Apple's music sales have dropped in response, and with web-based music streaming continuing to flourish, it's clearly adopted a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality.

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