Michae Robertson of MP3tunes.com, the new functionality lets people stream music to their Apple devices by using the online storage service that comes with iDisk, a service similar to Google Docs.

The move is interesting for several reasons:

  1. Apple is feeling the heat. Google is reported to be prepping to launch a cloud music service.
  2. Apple's move validates how any online storage service can be used to house music. Most to gain are services like MP3tunes.
  3. Apple's move could lead to legal challenges by the labels.
  4. This is the quietest launch in Apple history. Steve Jobs is not on stage, building anticipation for a new, significant service. Instead, it's just the opposite.

The service is hidden deeply in the feature sets that comes with the release notes of MobileMe iDisk version 1.2. It's not even on Apples' bulleted list. It's only if you click on "More" do you see it listed.

People may play MP3 or Apple AAC music through their iDisk account while using other apps. It is available through iPhone, iTouch and iPad devices.

Richardson points out this is not iTunes in the cloud. Features are limited, but it shows that Apple believes that iTunes future is in the cloud, not the desktop.

It also shows the difficult place Apple is in right now. Apple has dominated online music, but it's questionable how long they can maintain that power with the advent of cloud-based music services.

Furthermore, it's another example of how client-based software is increasingly going to seem like using a pay phone to make a call.

And then there are the labels...

As Robertson points out:

One company sure to be miffed at this new capability is Universal Music Group (UMG), the world's largest music company. They have told net companies who have inquired about offering personal cloud music services that backing up and downloading music files is OK with limitations, but streaming music files requires entering into a license and paying a per stream fee. Apple's service allows unlimited sharing (no username or password required) and now background streaming - all without a license from the record labels.

Last of all, we wonder about Apple's future. Apple is unlikely to open its platform to any device. Only Apple devices connect to this new service. We can't see the company changing that approach any time soon, if at all.

That will only open up the market for services that are open to stream music from any device and leave Apple with a tough route to follow.