I was surprised to see the news that Apple is acquiring Shazam. After all, they’re a devices company, right? Maybe not, as the “services” division is the second-strongest line and growing. So what does Shazam do to help Apple? Two things that I see.
The first is that it gives them an avenue for selling music. Hear a song and wonder what it is? Fire up Shazam to identify it and here’s a handy link to buy it in the iTunes store. Right now (at least on Android), users have a choice between Google and Amazon for track purchases. You have to think Apple would want to get in on that. It’s a prime opportunity for impulse buys.
The second benefit is that it gives Apple more data about the songs people are interested in. The utility of this data is not immediately obvious to me, but I’m sure someone in Apple’s spaceship can figure out how to put it to use. Can they execute on that idea, though? I admittedly don’t pay a lot of attention to Apple, but they don’t seem to have the data chops of Google or Amazon.
But the title of this post is what the acquisition means for Shazam, not what it means for Apple. My first thought was “well I guess I won’t be able to use Shazam anymore.” Most of Apple’s software acquisitions have been focused on Siri or Apple Maps. Neither of those are available outside of the Apple ecosystem. CUPS (yes, the Unix print system) is the only acquisition that remains available outside of Apple, as far as I can tell.
Apple has no real desire to make it’s software available to non-iOS/macOS users. iTunes is a notable exception, but for the most part, you can’t expect Apple software outside of Apple hardware. Apple makes its money on services and hardware sales, not on software. And I can’t fault them for sticking to what works.
The question remains: will Shazam continue to be available across platforms? If Apple’s motivation is primarily to use it as an iTunes sales engine, I think it will. If they want to use it as a differentiator in a competitive smartphone market, they won’t. I’m inclined to favor the sales engine scenario, but time will tell.