In its quest to become the world's streaming music leader, Apple is extending an unlikely olive branch to its mobile-world rival, Google.
On Tuesday, an early beta version of the Apple Music streaming service was made available on Google's highly popular Android mobile operating system for the first time. Not even iTunes, the music-download store and player that made Apple a global music giant, had been available on Android before today.
Since the iTunes store emerged in 2003, the company has become the dominant force in music retail, but customers are dropping downloads in favour of streaming music: subscription services that generally charge a monthly fee or jam numerous ads into the experience.
Spotify is the world's streaming music leader, with more than 75 million active users, 20 million of whom pay subscription fees of about $10 a month for unlimited ad-free music. In the face of such competition, Apple is changing its tune. By launching on Android, Apple has made a small concession in its battle for mobile market share in order to make huge strides in its battle for music market share.
Since launching Apple Music in June, the tech giant has racked up 15 million users, 6.5 million of whom pay subscription fees, chief executive Tim Cook recently told reporters. Opening up to Android gives Apple a greater battleground to grow the nascent streaming market and steal share from Spotify and other rivals such as Rdio, Google Play, Tidal and Deezer.
In the past year, all of these services have unveiled new added-value features, including video, personalized content and discount versions. While a loss on Apple's music division will not adversely affect the company, most streaming services largely tend to rely on music and thus have more precarious existences.
YouTube, a Google product, also threw its name in the subscription hat recently, with an eye on both music and video streaming.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the music business's chief lobbying group, said in its annual report in April that subscription streaming was becoming a "key driver" of the otherwise flat $15-billion (U.S.) industry.
Apple Music's Android customers will be able to take advantage of the same three-month free trial period iOS and desktop users have been able to use since launch. It is available in all countries that have iOS app, except China, which the company has promised is coming soon.
The beta does not let users watch music videos, redeem gift cards or sign up for a family membership. It is unclear if the iTunes store will be available, but Apple Music recognizes users who have bought from iTunes and can make it available to stream if they use the same account.
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the Android launch, but indicated the price after the free trial will remain the same across all platforms. (The Google Play store traditionally charges a 30-per-cent transaction fee, much like Apple does in its own app store.)
According to comScore, Android was the top smartphone platform in the United States as of September, making up 52 per cent of the market, followed by Apple's iOS at 44 per cent.