It appears that the music streaming business is about to lose one of its major players, only months after it launched. Citing five sources, TechCrunch reports that Apple plans to shut down Beats Music – the Jimmy Iovine-Dr. Dre-Trent Reznor venture that the tech giant acquired back in May – for reasons unknown. (Apple didn't respond to TechCrunch's request for a comment). One indicator pointing to that apparent move is that the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus don't come with Beats pre-installed. According to the report, speculation is that Beats was hurt by its late start in contrast to Spotify and Pandora—and that the service's paid subscriptions only numbered 250,000 in comparison to Spotify's 10 million paid members.
This potential move would certainly lend credence that Apple acquired Beats mainly for its headphone business as well as its star power in the form of Iovine and Dre; it would also free up Apple to concentrate on its far more successful iTunes. As our own Steve Aguiar wrote back in January about Beats' emergence, new streaming services entering the field tend to overlap and borrow certain features from their rivals, and “when everyone starts copying each other, they lose what made them special in the first place.” If the demise of Beats Music is to be believed, it'll only be a matter of time until some other service takes its place, boasting of newer and better features and personalizations. But in the end, as Aguiar pointed out, the best music discovery service is still you.
Updated 6:36 PM ET: Apple is refuting the TechCrunch report. According to Pete Kafka's story in Re/Code, Apple's media relations representative Tom Neumayr said that the article about the service's demise is “not true” but wouldn't comment further. Kafka later wrote that Apple is not pulling the plug on Beats but rather possibly rebranding it.