Apple Online StoreRobert Andrews explains how Apple’s acquistion of Lala gives it a leg-up to the cloud.

“iTunes Store remains the market-leading music retailer, and iTunes the popular app, but competitors are gathering,” Andrews writes. “As more of our lives are stored online, so more music is streaming from the cloud. In on-demand, Spotify is hoping to launch in the U.S. by Q2, MySpace Music is ramping up. In radio, Pandora and Last.fm are in the background.”

“CNET reports Apple wants to ‘obtain some of Lala’s payment and fulfillment systems’ – but that would be pretty underwhelming,” Andrews writes. “With MySpace having taken iLike and imeem off the market, a more interesting idea is that Apple will use Lala to inject some remotely-hosted goodness into iTunes.”

Andrews writes, “Don’t expect Apple to follow the likes of Spotify and We7 down the ad-funded route – that market is already under pressure, with some of the leading services’ bosses beginning to admit they can’t make it work in isolation; Ruckus and SpiralFrog have croaked.”

“And don’t expect Apple to launch a radical new web-based streamer or locker distinct from the core iTunes brand which has served it so well. More likely – integrating remote music access with the MobileMe suite that now offers web-based mail, calendar, contacts, photos, gallery and backup, but no songs (where music goes in iTunes, expect remotely-accessed movies and TV to follow),” Andrews writes. “And Lala’s own technology focuses on scanning users’ discs for existing songs to mirror online – so expect an emphasis on access to one’s own collection.”

Read more in the full article here.