LaLa CEO Bill Nguyen: Apple acquired us “for the people”

Wed, Mar 30, 2011


In December 2009, Apple purchased LaLa, a young startup company that let users purchase, download, and stream songs for as little as $0.10 a song. The LaLa acquisition naturally led to speculation that Apple was planning on using LaLa’s streaming expertise to set up a cloud-based version of iTunes where users would be able to stream their content down to any number of iOS devices.

Late last Summer, though, reports surfaced that former LaLa employees weren’t even working on music related initiatives but rather an undisclosed video feature. Still, Apple had reportedly told Lala executives that they’d be involved in formulating Apple’s music strategy for iTunes at some point down the road. Indeed, a current LinkedIn search reveals that at least 10 former LaLa employees are still working for Apple.

But one LaLa executive who didn’t stick around too long was former LaLa CEO Bill Nguyen who’s Color app for the iPhone generated an impressive amount of press this past weekend.

Nguyen recently sat down with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky where he discussed the Apple acquisition and more.

When asked what became of LaLa, Nguyen answered:

“You know, I think Steve was pretty explicit. He got us for the people, and the vast vast majority of my friends are still at Apple and they’re building amazing things and I think people will be impressed by the work that they do.”

Next, Lashinsky asked Nguyen if Apple is building a music cloud service.

“Well, you know, I think it’s a little bit different,” said Nguyen. “I think, again, if you look at Apple, when we talk about their ecosystem being closed, open, I think it’s incredibly open. Today, you can make a product that streams music, cloud services, just like LaLa, Rdio, there’s a lot of them these days, and they’re available today from the app store.

So my perspective is, did Apple enable amazing set of companies to provide those services? From Rdio for music to Netflix for video, I thnk they’ve done a great job. i don’t think anything of my creation I feel like people still don’t continue to enjoy.┬áThe name might be different, but that’s okay. One of the things I’ve learned about technology is that code gets old very quickly and what used to be the darling is no longer the darling anymore.”

Well that’s certainly a clever way to dance around the question. Talking more abstractly about what he’s hoping to accomplish in the realm of technology, Nguyen says that for him it’s not about fame, but rather concepts that profoundly impact people.

“We try to build things that improve people’s lives, that help them stay in contact together, help them communicate. Whether it’s email one day or what we’re doing with Color, and that’s our legacy. It’s not going to be our brand or our identity or our specific brand service, it’s the concept that we bring to the market. And that’s all I ever wanted to do,” Nguyen continued. “I just wanted to bring new concepts to the market and have the market ingest it and ill leave that up to history to define.”


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