Will it have anything to do with sound quality? I doubt it.
Apple likes to roll out new products with slick presentations touting all of the improvements in the product, or how the new product improves upon an existing solution.
This new rumored streaming audio service (a re-branded Beats Music service) looks like more of the same – random, computer generated playlists or hunt & peck streaming at a compressed rate, trying it’s damnedest to sell you that same compressed copy to own.
No one wants to buy those compressed little MP3’s when you can stream them. If they were smart enough to offer an HD version of the song I bet people would buy more when streaming. I know I would.
Since iPod shipped 14 years ago, I can recall one single upgrade to the sound quality in Apple’s iTunes ecosystem. This was around 2009 when they introduced the “mastered for iTunes” program, that allowed you to deliver files in 24bit lossless but they would not sell the HD version, they reduce it to 320k AAC (apple’s version of MP3) and sell it for $1.29 a track instead of $.99.
All of this is why I have a PonoPlayer and haven’t looked back. iTunes was always a toy musically, and since they’ve made absolutely no effort to really improve sound quality in 15 years, it’s even more of a toy.
The sad thing is how popular it is, with millions of people listening to tinny, distorted audio devices playing horribly compressed files. None of it is necessary anymore but it lives on as “The modern way”. A huge decrease in quality in the name of perceived convenience.