imagesSix years after launching iTunes and then the iTunes Music Store, Apple allegedly plans to use the technology from Lala, a startup the company acquired earlier this month, to create a new browser-based version of iTunes. The new music and video player would store customers’ purchases online, rather than downloading them to the customer’s computer. The Wall Street Journal broke the story this morning.

iTunes users would be able to run iTunes from almost any computer rather than having their music tied to one specific desktop or laptop machine. Customers’ music and video files would be stored on Apple servers on the Internet, not on their own computers.

Lala had already built a Web-based music player. The company’s homepage slogan is “All the music you could ever want, playable in a Web browser.” Sources claiming to know about the deal say Apple paid $85 million for Lala.

What does this mean for iTunes customers, current and future?

Pros

  • Because the music, TV and movie files aren’t on your own computer, you wouldn’t have to make backups yourself in case they’re lost or destroyed.
  • You wouldn’t have to worry about running out of disk space. Just as with Gmail and other Web-based email, Apple could decide how much disk space you are allowed to use. If you reach that limit, Apple could sell you more space.
  • If your computer is lost, stolen or destroyed, Apple would still have all your music and videos.
  • You wouldn’t need to use your personal computer to play the music or videos. You could play them at work, on someone else’s computer — say, on a trip or at a party — or from a cybercafe’s workstations.
  • When you buy music or a movie, you would’t need to wait to download it over your home network before you could play it. Instead, it would be playable through the Web-based iTunes almost immediately.

Cons

  • A Web-based iTunes interface might be slower and less feature-rich than the desktop version.
  • You’d need a constant Internet connection to access iTunes.
  • Some people just like to own their stuff and store it on their computer. Apple chief Steve Jobs hit this point a lot when launching the original iTunes, and then the iTunes Store.

For now, there’s no word on whether Apple

Will Apple eventually stop supporting the on-your-computer version of iTunes? Probably not very soon. But Jobs famously removed support for floppy disks on the original iMac in 1998. At the time it seemed risky. Now, it’s tagged as prescient.

In the video below, Wall Street Journal tech editor Julia Angwin says of the current version of iTunes, “It’s actually kind of an archaic model that they have, tying all your music to one computer.”

http://s.wsj.net/media/swf/main.swf

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