Apple Music set to launch today with iOS 8.4 update
Streaming service to launch in 100 countries, though no word yet on Middle East availability
Apple is set to launch its new streaming service, Apple Music, today in 100 countries, with a new app to be included in an update of the iOS operating system.
Along with Apple Music, Cupertino is also launching its Beats 1 radio - a curated service headed up by some of the world's top DJs, including former BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe. The iOS update that includes the new service is expected to be made available at 3pm GMT today, to allow users to tune into the first Beats 1 broadcast scheduled for an hour later.
There is no word yet on whether the service will be available in the Middle East, though Apple fans will certainly hope so. Rival streaming services such as Spotify have been notably absent from this market, meaning that music lovers here generally resort to downloads from the iTunes Store, or else stream playlists from YouTube. If Apple Music was made available in the Middle East, Cupertino would gain an instant advantage by virtue of being the first major-league streaming service available to customers.
Where it is made available Apple Music will give new users a three-month free trial period, after which it will cost $9.99 per month. It will be made available on the Android platform in the autumn, Apple has said.
Wherever the service is launched, Apple is wading into what is becoming a hotly contested market. Spotify is the current leader, with close to 100m subscribers. Only about a quarter of those are paid subscribers, with the majority opting for a free, ad-supported model. Apple's service differs in that there will be no free tier - after the three-month trial, users will have no choice but to pay up, a fact not lost on the artists that Cupertino has been courting to sign onto the service.
Indeed, last week, pop star Taylor Swift made headlines with an open letter berating Apple for asking artists to forgo payment during the three-month trial period. Apple quickly U-turned, and as a result, Swift said that she would allow her latest album, 1989, to appear on Apple Music. Apple has also confirmed other large acts like AC/DC, Dr. Dre and The Beatles for its streaming service. It hopes that its strong ties to the music industry, forged through the iTunes Store, will allow it to attract bigger names to Apple Music.