We've been wondering what a Lalaized iTunes would look like, and we weren't too far off: The WSJ says iTunes is evolving into a web-centric model, making the biggest music store in the world that much more powerful.
You won't need software anymore to buy songs from iTunes. iTunes will just be on the web—you'll be able to buy and listen directly, through search engines or other sites, much like you can with Lala now. Or if you're not familiar with it, think about the way Amazon is embedded on the internet, and imagine that for music, through iTunes. It's a kind of ubiquity would make the biggest music store in the world even more influential and intractable, a fact that's not lost on record labels.
It's an uprooting of the entire iTunes model: Not only would you buy songs and manage your iTunes library through the web, iTunes could shift to having a serious streaming component, away from "download to own," as Apple's been evaluating the impact of Pandora and Lala on iTunes, though the WSJ is more tentative on this point.
Also, you may very well be able to put your music in the cloud. Essentially, you would own right to listen to the song anytime and anywhere, not just the digital file you downloaded. There's also a chance that Apple will use Lala's ability to scan your current music library, match it up with the files on their servers, and give you access to the songs you already own anywhere via its servers.
Two mildly tangential points: Lala Chairman Bill Nguyen appears to be heavily involved in the new effort, making joint calls to the labels with Apple's Eddie Cue, indicating it's a classic Apple tech-and-brains acquisition, and the WSJ backs up the previously rumored $80 million pricepoint, saying Apple paid $85 million for Lala.
This whole iTunes revamp could happen as early as next year, although there's expected to be some pushback from a music industry already cowed by Apple's strength. But Cupertino's been keeping the major labels on life support for so long, there's just not much they can do about it. [WSJ]