Gone are the days of Apple’s insistently walled-off ecosystem. Though the tech giant first debuted Apple Music exclusively on iOS devices like iPhones and Macs, it quietly extended the music-streaming service to Android devices later on, and now it’s going even further: On Friday, Amazon announced that Apple Music subscribers will soon be able to use the service on Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo devices. Customers will be able to ask Alexa to play songs, artists, albums, playlists and curated stations like Beats 1.
Amazon has every reason to be ecstatic. While the e-commerce company has a music-streaming service of its own, it knows that the benefits of accepting Apple Music onto Echo devices will outweigh the potential loss in attention in Amazon Music, as users have been begging on help forums for an Apple Music integration for years. “Music is one of the most popular features on Alexa,” Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices, said in a press release. “Since we launched Alexa four years ago, customers are listening to more music in their homes than ever before.” Amazon notes that customers currently stream “tens of millions of hours of radio per month” via Alexa.
But what’s Apple’s reason for allowing its treasured service onto its competitor’s product — especially the smart-home Echo, which competes directly with Apple’s HomePod? It’s the same as in the Apple Music Android case: As much as the tech company would love to ensnare everyone in the world into Apple hardware, it must sacrifice a bit of that interest if it also wants its non-hardware products to succeed. By latest count, Spotify has 191 million users and Apple Music has around 50 million; the latter is madly pushing out new features and promotions to catch up. Yet there are only so many people willing to pay for Apple Music and thousand-dollar Apple devices. That number expands dramatically if it includes people who are amenable to paying for Apple Music and use it on other devices they might want, or already own. The Android market, for instance, comprises 1 billion smartphone users; and in the last quarter of 2017, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that 20 million Echo devices had been sold.
Apple Music will come to Alexa-enabled Echo devices starting the week of December 17th — just in time for the deluge of holiday sales.