Apple is getting ready to bring its iTunes Store to a web browser near you.
So says The Wall Street Journal. Citing the ever-vague, “people familiar with the matter,” the WSJ claims a browser-based iTunes Store — built from Lala.com, recently acquired by Apple — could arrive early next year.
Moving to an online, browser-based music experience would be a fundamental change for Apple, which currently requires that users install its iTunes software before purchasing music.
The key difference between the current iTunes Store model and Lala.com is that the later allows you to buy music that lives in a cloud-based library. You can then listen to your collection through a web browser, which means you can access your music from any computer with a network connection.
That’s good news for those of you who, like us, find the iTunes music player to be a bloated, unwieldy piece of software. If the iTunes Store were freed from iTunes, in theory, it would make it much easier to purchase music and then manage your library with the software of your choice. Like with Songbird, for example.
Of course, iPod and iPhone compatibility would still be an issue. While there are plenty of third-party music players that can sync music to your iPod, but such tools exist under the constant threat that Apple will change something and break the syncing capabilities.
There’s another potential upside to moving the iTunes store into the cloud — the iTunes application might return to being a media player and Apple can focus on improving it, rather than simply using it as a storefront.