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Apple Options Are Streaming

|Includes: Apple Inc. (AAPL), BB, GOOG, HPQ, SNE

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Apple Seeks to Keep Lead in Music With New Streaming Service By Bloomberg

Apple Inc. showed off a new streaming-music service that will give users access to a vast inventory of songs for $9.99 a month, seeking to regain ground against upstarts that have lured listeners by offering unlimited access to music.

Apple Music will be available starting June 30 with 30 million songs, the company announced on Monday at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco. It was the highlight of the annual event, where Apple executives showed off updated software and new tools for Macs, iPhones, iPads and Apple Watch to 5,000-plus software engineers.

The new service is aimed at bolstering Apple's efforts at a time when the music industry's revenue from streaming is on pace to exceed sales from downloads, according to MusicWatch. Though Apple remains the largest music retailer in the world, its place as an industry leader is being challenged. Spotify has more than 60 million users -- with a quarter of them buying the $9.99-a-month ad-free subscription, while music is the most popular genre on YouTube's video service, which attracts more than 1 billion users a month.

"They're making Apple Music available pretty much everywhere because they want to maximize the uptake," said Ian Fogg, an analyst at IHS Technology. "Clearly, Apple sees Apple Music as a strategic play."

Apple also unveiled a feature called Apple Music Radio, a 24-hour radio station "dedicated entirely to music and music culture." There will also be other stations for different genres. And Apple introduced a feature called Connect, which lets artists share lyrics, pictures and comments with listeners.

The iPhone maker is offering an Apple Music sharing plan for families for $14.99 a month. People can sign up for a 3-month free membership to test the service.

Center Stage

Cupertino, California-based Apple, which upended the music business more than a decade ago by selling individual songs online, has helped push artists to new levels of stardom through its iTunes service and by featuring them in commercials or promotions.

Apple Music was built on Apple's $3 billion acquisition of Beats Electronics last year. The deal included the company's popular headphones and speakers as well as Beats Music. Apple Music will be available on iPhones, iPads, iPod touch, Macs, Apple TV, personal computers and -- in a surprising twist -- Android smartphones running software from Google Inc.

Shares of Pandora Media Inc., the largest online radio service with 79.2 million monthly active listeners as of March, declined 3.8 percent to $17.69 at the close in New York.

Hardware, Software

Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook is counting on new features and innovations in Apple software to keep driving demand for the the company's hardware products. The more than 1.4 million apps for iPhones and iPads have helped create an ecosystem for Apple devices that makes the company's products more appealing and users more loyal.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software, led the flurry of announcements about new programs for Macs and mobile gadgets. He started with the update to Apple's Mac operating system called OS X El Capitan, showcasing features such as a split-view option in windows. He also announced the rollout of an updated mobile operating system, iOS 9, which incorporates new search and Siri voice-recognition features.

He highlighted new functions that Apple calls proactivity, which suggest music when the user is going for a run, or apps that might be useful at specific times of day. This new proactive personal assistant follows Google Inc.'s own predictive mobile software, called Google Now. The new iOS 9 also includes a way to switch to low-power mode to preserve battery life.

Apple Pay

Jennifer Bailey, head of Apple Pay, showed off that product's new features, and said more than 1 million locations will accept the payment system as of next month. The company added store debit cards to its system, and renamed its Passbook feature as Wallet.

Apple executive Susan Prescott demonstrated the company's coming News application, which acts as a hub to draw in content from media outlets such as the New York Times, ESPN, Wired and the Atlantic, integrating graphics, photos and videos. It resembles Flipboard, a mobile app that pulls links and content from a users' social media accounts and presents it as one sleek digital publication.

Kevin Lynch, head of Apple Watch software, outlined updates to software for the device, which went on sale in April. New features for users include replying to e-mails and better review of upcoming information. Developers will get a software development kit, giving them better access to develop native apps that work better on the smartwatch.

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Disclosure: The author is long AAPL.