As you've no doubt heard, Apple just bought Lala, a company dedicated to streaming music over the Internet, which is sort of like what Apple does with music, in that involves "music" and "the Internet." The motivation for the move is still under debate -- was it a "talent acquisition," aimed getting Lala's smart people on Apple's payroll, or is Apple genuinely planning to do something stream-y with iTunes and the iTunes Store?
Or are they just trying to irritate Google? Supposedly Google had also been in talks to acquire Lala -- just as Apple had been in talks to acquire AdMob, which sells a lot of advertising on iPhones, before Google snapped it up.
Now, here's the thing: from an outsider's perspective, both companies seem like a more natural fit with Google. When it comes to AdMob, it's pretty simple: Google is an advertising company and Apple isn't. And through YouTube, Google is a steaming media company. Apple sells hardware, it's to their advantage to have your music in the form of files that sit on your computer's or phone's or MP3 player's local storage.
There's no shame in Apple trying to branch out, but evidence has shown that it's difficult for traditional computer companies to turn themselves into Internet companies (see for instance Microsoft and its endless array of non-industry-changing Live services). Apple's smartest move was its decision in the late '90s and early '00s to make its computers into digital lifestyle hubs -- a concept that assumes Internet connectivity but also assumes that there's something of value in the hunk of metal and plastic sitting on your desk or in your pocket. If that equation no longer works, I'm not sure if any amount of transformation can save Apple. It took Google more than a decade to become Google; Apple's not going to be able to follow suit. If these moves are attempts to break out of the hardware business, I fear that's not a game Apple can win.