[SAN FRANCISCO] Apple made its play to shake up online music on Monday with a new subscription service allowing users to stream songs, listen to playlists and connect with performers.
The new Apple Music, which could be a powerful rival to online services such as Spotify and Pandora, will launch June 30 in 100 countries.
It will initially be available to consumers with Apple devices and later this year to those using Android - a shift for Apple, which aims to attract customers from the rival mobile system which is dominant around the world.
Chief executive Tim Cook boasted that the new Apple Music service would be "the next chapter in music" and "will change the way you experience music forever." The service will be available for US$9.99 per month, with a family plan for up to six people at US$14.99.
"Apple Music is really going to move the needle for fans and artists," said Apple's Jimmy Iovine, who came to the California tech giant when it purchased Beats Music.
"Online music has become a complicated mess of apps, services and websites. Apple Music brings the best features together for an experience every music lover will appreciate."
BEATS 1 RADIO
The service includes a live radio station called Beats 1, tools to find curated playlists or individual songs and a social music network on which users can comment on music and share it.
"Beats 1 is a 24-hour listening experience led by influential DJs Zane Lowe in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga in London," Apple said in a statement.
"Listeners around the globe will hear the same great programming at the same time. Exciting programmes on Beats 1 will offer exclusive interviews, guest hosts and the best of what's going on in the world of music."
"We love music, and the new Apple Music service puts an incredible experience at every fan's fingertips," said Eddy Cue, Apple senior vice-president of Internet software and services at the Apple developer conference in San Francisco.
"All the ways people love enjoying music come together in one app - a revolutionary streaming service, live worldwide radio and an exciting way for fans to connect with artists."
The new service, leaked over the weekend by a top Sony executive, could become a major force in the music industry and was touted as a "revolutionary" step by Apple, which shook up the sector more than a decade ago with its first iTunes digital music store.
"Apple comes late to the music streaming business, due in part to Steve Jobs' refusal to believe that music subscription services would ever work," says James McQuivey at Forrester Research.
"But the writing is on the wall: digital downloads don't make sense for consumers that are connected wherever they go." Mr McQuivey said Apple Music may succeed "because it can build its new music service into the hundreds of millions of devices that its loyal Apple users already love."
UPGRADING IOS, SMARTWATCH
Apple also announced updated software for the iPhone and iPad as well as for the Apple Watch and its Mac computers.
The company unveiled an expansion of the Apple Pay service that allows iPhone users to tap their handsets at merchant terminals to Britain. It will launch next month at some 250,000 locations in Britain including the London transit system.
Also unveiled was the Apple News app, which "collects all the stories you want to read in one place, in a customized news feed."
For its Apple Watch, the updated watchOS 2 includes new features including taking a photo to create a new watch face, personal digital sketches and a feature that allows scanning of past and future calendar events.
The new operating system unveiled for the Mac computers will be called El Capitan.