Spotify released the video demo for its iPhone app yesterday as a pre-emptive strike against the unseen forces of Apple's iTunes App Store approval service. Had it submitted the app without whipping up a storm of publicity to go with it, it's likely Apple would have rejected it out of hand. But now, with the app dangled in front of an eager public, Apple's in a tricky position.
Spotify CEO Daniel Elk told paidContent that he expects the app to be approved. After all, he says, Apple has approved apps from other streaming music providers like Pandora and Last.fm. But there's a crucial difference – the Spotify app will work via both 3G and WiFi and allow you to make your playlists available when you've got no signal.
That offline access feature is the crucial difference with the Spotify app and the main reason Apple will want to kill it. If you can pay a monthly subscription to access a vast collection of music wherever you are, why bother with iTunes anymore? Asking Apple to approve the Spotify app is like asking the turkey to vote for Christmas, jump in the oven and switch it on.
Spotify believes it has stuck precisely to Apple's developer guidelines but Apple plays by its own rules. Its rumoured "Cocktail" project with the major labels could point to its own streaming service on the horizon. If Apple is planning its own streaming content service will it make it more or less likely to let Spotify onto the iPhone?
As I've written before, Spotify needs to gain premium subscribers or it will die. Why should Apple help a competitor? If the Spotify app does come to the iPhone, it will be a significant reason for people convert to a paid subscription.
In the US, Pandora and Sirius XM saw significant increases in subscriber numbers after they launched iPhone apps. Pandora added a new listener ever 2 seconds in the weeks following the launch of its app.
The forthcoming Android app and the potential for Windows Mobile and Nokia Series 60 versions could help Spotify achieve its aims. But getting onto the iPhone would mean its service was on the sexiest smartphone going.
If Apple does reject Spotify's iPhone app, there'll be a storm of disapproval from consumers but the black polo-neck clad brains of Cupertino have not been afraid of taking a hard line in the past. Apple rejected the Podcaster app because it included features similar to iTunes.
Spotify may think it has managed a Blitzkrieg attack of publicity against Apple but it could end up more like the ill-fate Ardennes offensive – an ambush that went awry.