Ap­ple and Shazam

Ap­ple’s pur­chase of Shazam means much more to the iphone than its ac­qui­si­tion of Beats, writes Michael Si­mon

Macworld - - Contents -

Shazam was a true game-changer as one of the first apps to ap­pear in the App Store back in July 2008. With just a tap, Shazam could iden­tify nearly any song you heard with­out need­ing to know any­thing about it. Shazam was a mag­i­cal app that I used to show off my iphone, and un­like all those other apps whose nov­elty wore off in just a few weeks (any­one re­mem­ber ibeer?),

Shazam has only got­ten bet­ter over the years. Ap­ple has long had part­nered with Shazam to power Siri’s song iden­ti­fi­ca­tion ser­vice, but now the Cu­per­tino gi­ant has con­firmed that it is buy­ing the com­pany out­right for a cool $400 mil­lion, a rel­a­tive bar­gain in today’s tech dol­lars. On the sur­face, a Shazam pur­chase en­sures that Siri will al­ways be able to rec­og­nize the song you’re lis­ten­ing to and will pro­vide a boost to Ap­ple Mu­sic, but I think Ap­ple has much big­ger plans for the ser­vice.

Like ev­ery­thing else Ap­ple seems to be do­ing now, it’s about aug­mented re­al­ity and ma­chine learn­ing. And it could be the thing that fi­nally puts Siri back at the front of the pack.

Lis­ten up

Shazam’s main strength is mu­sic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, and that fits well into Ap­ple’s cur­rent strat­egy. It’s not just Siri on our phones: Air­pods, Homepod, and Ap­ple Watch could ben­e­fit from Shazam’s un­canny abil­ity to name that tune.

And we might not even have to ask. On the new Pixel phones, Google has im­ple­mented a fea­ture that dis­plays the name of a song play­ing nearby even if As­sis­tant hasn’t been asked. It’s a neat fea­ture that’s all done lo­cally, and I use far more of­ten than I thought I would. A sim­i­lar fea­ture would be great on the iphone, and with Shazam’s mas­sive li­brary at Ap­ple’s dis­posal it would be far su­pe­rior to Google’s.

But where Shazam could re­ally help Siri’s ears is with Homepod. Ap­ple wants its new home

speaker to ‘rein­vent home mu­sic’, but if all it does is sound good, that’s hardly rev­o­lu­tion­ary. If Ap­ple could leverage its Shazam ac­qui­si­tion to build some se­ri­ous smarts into Homepod, it could be a dif­fer­ence maker. We will al­ready be able to ask Siri to play things like the most pop­u­lar song in 1986, but Shazam could am­plify its knowl­edge con­sid­er­ably. It would be great to tap your Air­pods and ask “Play the song that goes like this ...” or “Play that Ed Sheeran song about Ire­land”. Shazam might not be able to do that now, but the ground­work is cer­tainly in place, par­tic­u­larly when paired with Ap­ple’s own AI mu­si­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

And it could go be­yond sim­ple song iden­ti­fi­ca­tion too. Ap­ple could use Shazam to cre­ate per­son­al­ized playlists right on Homepod, based on your

lis­ten­ing habits and tastes. Ap­ple Mu­sic al­ready cre­ates mixes that are pretty great, but Ap­ple’s ma­chine learn­ing could use what it hears to cre­ate cus­tom­ized playlists for the time of day that only play in our homes. That alone could be a rea­son to spend £349 on a Homepod.

See­ing is be­liev­ing

Shazam may be a house­hold name when it comes to song iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, but the un­der­ly­ing tech­nol­ogy has much broader ap­pli­ca­tion. Back in 2015, Shazam added vis­ual recog­ni­tion to its port­fo­lio, and while it hasn’t caught on quite as well as its au­dio ca­pa­bil­i­ties, Ap­ple’s new AR push could def­i­nitely ben­e­fit.

Even with ARKIT, Ap­ple is lag­ging when it comes to aug­mented re­al­ity, es­pe­cially on the AI side of things. Most notably, Google has in­tro­duced a tech­nol­ogy with the Pixel 2 called Lens, which works with As­sis­tant to iden­tify and in­ter­act with real-world ob­jects. For ex­am­ple, you could point your phone at a build­ing and As­sis­tant will tell you about it, or you can scan a busi­ness card and it will au­to­mat­i­cally be added to your con­tacts. Google will soon be rolling out Lens to all An­droid phones, and once it does, Siri on the iphone will seem even more out­dated than it al­ready does.

But Shazam could give Ap­ple a real boost here. While the pub­lic face of Shazam’s vis­ual recog­ni­tion has mainly fo­cuses on brands – like scan­ning a movie poster to ac­cess a trailer – but Ap­ple could tap into Shazam’s en­gine to give Siri a whole new

class of in­tel­li­gence. We’ve read enough ru­mours about the Ap­ple car and Ap­ple glasses to see that AR is the next area of fo­cus, and Shazam could help bring that fu­ture into view. We know Shazam will am­plify Siri’s ears, but it could be a boost to its vi­sion too.

Bet­ter but not ex­clu­sive

When Ap­ple bought Beats, I ex­pected Ap­ple would force users to buy an iphone if they wanted a new pair. That hasn’t hap­pened. In­stead, Ap­ple has made the ex­pe­ri­ence bet­ter on the iphone with seam­less pair­ing, a fea­ture that I sus­pect has sold more iphones than forc­ing peo­ple to switch.

I ex­pect some­thing sim­i­lar with Shazam. While con­ven­tional think­ing would sug­gest that Ap­ple

would shut­ter the An­droid app in a few months, I don’t think that will be the case. But I do think Shazam will be bet­ter on IOS. An­droid users will get the same song-iden­ti­fy­ing Shazam that’s avail­able today while IOS users will en­joy more fea­tures, even be­yond what’s baked into the newer prod­ucts. Ap­ple likely won’t cut peo­ple off, but it will add enough cool fea­tures for peo­ple to no­tice. I think we’ll see a de­lin­eation be­tween the Shazam app on the Play Store and the App Store, as Ap­ple en­hances its ca­pa­bil­i­ties on IOS and adds ex­clu­sive fea­tures.

Ap­ple’s pur­chase of Shazam might have been a big­ger deal three years ago, but it could have much more of an im­pact on your Ap­ple de­vices now. Ear­lier today, Techcrunch re­ported that Spo­tify and Snap were also in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing Shazam, so the po­ten­tial here is more than just cor­ner­ing the mar­ket on song iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Ap­ple is poised to leap into the AI and AR race with both feet, and Shazam could be the per­fect tech­nol­ogy to vault them to the head of the class.

And if not, well, at least Siri will be bet­ter than As­sis­tant and Cor­tana at Id­ing songs. That’s worth $400 mil­lion, right?

It’s hoped you’ll be able to cre­ate playlists on a Homepod

It’s hoped that Shazam won’t be ex­clu­sive to IOS users

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.