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Mihir Sharma

Where Apple Sees the Future of Streaming

The tech giant’s acquisition of tiny classical-music startup Primephonic should tell us something about what factors are going to matter most to listeners and viewers. 

The unknown composer of the Pathétique Sonata. 

The unknown composer of the Pathétique Sonata. 

Photographer: Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

The small but diverse group of classical-music lovers is in deep mourning after one of the pillars of its community died. Primephonic, a Dutch-American app that streamed a wide catalogue of classical music went dark last month, after being acquired by Apple Inc., which aims to fold the service into Apple Music. But why would the world’s largest company be interested in a closely held startup with a relatively small user base, a few dozen employees and no startling technological innovation to boast of?

The answer: Primephonic understood the future. Apple has realized that streaming services will succeed or fail depending on whether they master the four things the tiny company, along with its classical-music peers such as Idagio, have figured out: metadata, discovery, curation and quality. And that will hold true for video streaming, too, not just music. With the buyout, Apple is hoping to absorb Primephonic’s DNA.