Last month, sources to Digital Music News pointed to internal Apple discussions and proposal to eliminate music downloads from iTunes, in as quickly as 2-3 years. That was flatly denied by Apple’s media representatives, though sources with close knowledge of the company’s plans continue to share details that music downloads may be phased out in just a few years. A great deal depends on how sharply music downloads decline, how quickly streaming accelerates, and how an unstable internal political atmosphere resolves, the same sources have shared.
That said, the ability to cleanly remove downloads at a future point could get easier. One source indicated that Apple may be architecting iTunes differently, with the ability to more easily drop iTunes music downloads in future years if the format becomes seriously marginalized. That would allow the company to simplify the application towards streaming and radio in the event that music downloads experience a ‘CD-like collapse’ in the coming years, or if downloads are viewed as heavily dragging Apple Music’s progress against competitors like Spotify. “It’s a ‘keeping their options open’ thing,” one source noted, while underscoring that a few years is “an eternity” in this market.
Enter Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, which kicks off June 13th in San Francisco. That event is a smorgasbord of announcements and product rollouts, and is expected to include the unveiling of a major iTunes overhaul. Addressing widespread complaints of ‘bloatware’ and a nightmarishly complicated interface, Apple is hoping to vastly simplify a sprawling iTunes, including an iTunes Store stuffed with apps, movies, TV shows, music downloads, and now, streaming service Apple Music.