Could the long and winding trademark dispute between Apple Inc. and Apple Corpslead to the great digital music download panacea: Beatles music on iTunes?
It's looking VERY good.
The two companies ending 25 years of trademark disputes with Apple now owning the "Apple" trademark and agreeing to license parts of it back to the Beatles label. With no monetary details being disclosed, that's adding fuel to the fire that this agreement is merely part of a broader, more sweeping arrangement between the two sides.
If you remember, a young Steve Jobs settled this dispute the first time around back
in 1981, four years before that first Mac debuted, paying $80,000 to the Beatles and agreeing not to enter the music business.
Ten years later, in 1991, Apple runs afoul of that original settlement after releasing software helping musicians create new music. That business decision cost Apple another $26 million.
But then, talk about a Revolution! Ten years after that settlement, Apple enters the music business big time by releasing the first iPod and unveiling the iTunes online music store. And while it took the Beatles 30 years to sell 169 million albums in the United States, it took Apple only three years to sell its first billion songs on iTunes. It took Apple only another year to sell its second billion songs. All the while, the iPod has been flying off store shelves with Steve Jobs estimating the 100 millionth iPod will sell some time this year, only five short years after being introduced.
Apple didn't merely enter the music business, it transformed it. And now, with the possibility of the Beatles adding their 255 songs to the iTunes catalog, the mind boggles at what the potential could be.
Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster suggests a one-day, $50 million to $100 million revenue pop if the Beatles catalog makes its way to iTunes.
"First there is going to be a one-time shot in the arm for the iTunes business. We estimate there could be a $50 million to $100 million worth of pent-up demand in Beatles-lovers buying iTunes music, and second, there is a bigger theme in play here, which is that the Beatles have been the hold out. By the Beatles going over and embracing iTunes, that probably will help other artists and possibly movie studios in embracing iTunes. So, its a double positive impact for Apple," Munster tells us.
Remember, Steve Jobs teased the Mac faithful at the most recent Macworld when he unveiled the long anticipated iPhone. During the music portion of the demonstration, he showed how easy it would be to pull up music on the screen. He chose to show off the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album and then played "Lovely Rita" as the example. That set tongues wagging and speculation into high gear that a Beatles deal was near.
It didn't happen.
There was lots of talk that Apple would surprise everyone with a special Super Bowl ad (remember the famous one 23 years ago that Apple used to unleash the first Mac?) that would unveil a new, Beatles-branded iPod, ala the one the company did for U2.
It didn't happen.
But that doesn't mean it won't happen, and soon. Some analysts say the Beatles catalog on iTunes could be worth $1 billion down the road, and that's some serious money. For Apple. For the Beatles. For Apple investors. For Beatles fans.
Apple and Apple finally "come together." And as John Lennon said, "Imagine" the possibilities.
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