Rumor: iCloud to scan, mirror iTunes libraries, Apple close to deal with Universal

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 03:10
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the rumor mill keeps technology interesting.

Per Bloomberg BusinessWeek, according to people briefed on talks between Apple and the music labels, Apple has obtained new licenses for its so-called iCloud service that will allow the company to mirror individual iTunes music collections on its servers. Additionally, Apple will replace low-quality music files stored on users’ hard drives with higher-quality versions on its servers.

However, the convenience of increased access to one’s music will come at a price, according to the report. While Apple’s upcoming music service “may be a huge shift, it won’t be free,” the article states. Label executives have reportedly said they are negotiating aggressively for profits in the cloud.

Though specific details on pricing remain unclear, the article speculates that Apple could bundle streaming music services into its revamp of MobileMe, which currently retails for US$99 a year. Fees for the service could also help labels “claw out some money” from pirated music, the authors noted. A separate report suggested last month that the rumored service could be free at first, but would eventually require a fee.

Sources close to the negotiations between Apple and the record companies corroborated earlier reports that Apple had reached agreements with three of the four major labels and is close to a deal with Universal Music.

Music executives also alleged that Google had offered US$100 million up front to the four major music labels for licenses, but negotiations stalled over the labels’ concerns that Google doesn’t do enough to protect copyright holders on Google.com and YouTube. Without the licensing agreements needed to sell music, the search giant eventually launched its Music Beta service as just a ‘digital locker.’

Rival Amazon launched its Cloud Drive online music streaming service in March without renegotiated licenses. Music industry executives, who were notified of Amazon’s plans just days before the launch, have questioned the legality of a feature that automatically adds Amazon.com digital music purchases to customers’ Cloud Drive accounts.

Apple is expected to unveil its iCloud service in June at the annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, though the company reportedly has yet to finalize negotiations for new licenses with music publishers. Apple appears to have completed work on the service, with negotiations with rights holders standing as the final hurdle.

An Apple patent application discovered last week hints at one possible solution for streaming music. According to the filing, Apple is investigating a method of storing portions of songs on devices such as the iPhone in order to allow immediate playback, while the device initiates a download from a remote location.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple anticipated to launch “iCloud” service providing terms can be reached with music publishers

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Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:33
Category: iTunes, News

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You’re hankering for Apple to launch a streaming music service with assorted other features.

You may not have to wait too long.

According to MediaMemo, Music industry insiders expect that Apple wants to launch, or at least introduce, its anticipated “iCloud” music streaming service in June, though the company must also reach agreements with music publishers.

Pursuant to this, Apple is said to have started making deals with the labels first in its negotiation process, and only recently began talking with publishers.

How long it will take to reach an agreement with publishers remains to be seen. But Apple’s launch of 90 second song previews in iTunes was reportedly held up for months last year because of negotiations with publishers.

Author Peter Kafka also said that sources in the music industry believe that Apple wants to launch or at least announce its so-called “iCloud” service at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, starting June 6 in San Francisco. This year’s event is expected to focus on software, and it is not expected that Apple will unveil new iPhone hardware as it has done in years past.

“In Apple’s case, I’m told that the company doesn’t have any theological hurdles to clear with the publishers,” Kafka wrote.

As for the music labels, Apple has been making headway, with deals already reached with Sony Corp., EMI Group, and Warner Music Group. Those agreements would allow users to access song collections from mobile devices via the Internet.

The lone holdout remains Universal Music Group, the largest recording company. But it has also been said that Apple and Universal are close to reaching an agreement.

The Internet-based service is expected to offer more than just music, serving up calendar events, contacts, e-mail and bookmarks. Apple recently acquired the “icloud.com” domain name, suggesting that the company’s current cloud-based service, MobileMe, could be rebranded in the revamp.

Your guess is as good as ours on this one, but let us know what you think and we’ll get the information to you as soon as we get it.

Rumor: Apple secures EMI licensing deal for upcoming cloud service

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Date: Thursday, May 19th, 2011, 04:08
Category: iTunes, Rumor

You’ve been eagerly anticipating the Apple Cloud.

And they might be one step closer to releasing it.

Per CNET, music industry sources claim that Apple has signed a cloud-music licensing agreement with music label EMI and is “very near” to completing deals with Universal and Sony.

Apple appears to be putting the final pieces in place for the long-rumored cloud-based iTunes music service. The article states that Apple’s negotiations with Sony Music Group and Universal could wrap up as early as next week, according to music industry sources.

Last month, it was reported that Apple and Warner Music Group had reached an agreement for an unannounced iTunes cloud service. A separate report suggested last month that Apple had already procured deals from at least two of the four major music labels.

Finalizing licensing deals appears to be the final step for Apple, as a recent report suggested that Apple had completed work on a cloud-based iTunes music streaming service. Sources close to the story have said that Apple’s cloud solution is expected to be vastly superior to competing services from Google and Amazon.

Both Google and Amazon decided to launch their “digital locker” music services without renegotiating licenses with the labels. As such, Google’s service is unable to sell music and Amazon faces a potential backlash from rights holders.

Mounting evidence suggests that Apple will use the name ‘iCloud’ for the new service, though it’s been rumored that iCloud will be more than just music. Sources said the new service will also serve as a revamp of the company’s existing MobileMe service, allowing storage of contacts, calendars, photos and video.

According to one report, Apple purchased the iCloud.com domain for an estimated US$4.5 million from the Swedish company Xcerion.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple purchases iCloud.com domain name for $4.5 million

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Date: Friday, April 29th, 2011, 05:37
Category: iTunes, iTunes Music Store, Rumor

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Moving away from the white iPhone 4 for a moment, Apple is said to have indeed bought the iCloud.com domain for its forthcoming cloud-based iTunes music streaming service, though the rumored US$4.5 million purchase price remains unconfirmed.

Citing his own sources, John Paczkowski of Digital Daily reported Friday that Apple did purchase the iCloud.com domain from Swedish cloud computing company Xcerion. Those sources declined, however, to say whether the rumored US$4.5 million purchase price was accurate.

The report corroborates a rumor from earlier this week in which it was stated that Apple had acquired the domain, likely revealing the name of the company’s forthcoming cloud computing service. The Whois database still lists Xcerion as the owner of iCloud, but the company recently rebranded its service as CloudMe.

Still a mystery is exactly what Apple has planned for the domain. The company already has a name for its current cloud computing efforts: MobileMe.

Back in February, it was reported that Apple is working on a major revamp of its MobileMe service, and is considering making the US$99-per-year product free. The report also said that Apple will offer a digital “locker” that will allow users to store and remotely access personal content, like photos, music and videos.

More recently, Apple is said to have “completed” work on a new music streaming service that it has been pitching to music executives. And one of the four major record labels, Warner Music, is said to have signed a deal with Apple over the service, though the specifics of how it might work remain unknown.

Set to open this spring, a new Apple data center in Maiden, N.C., will support both the iTunes and MobileMe services, which has led to speculation that the US$1 billion facility could be an integral part of Apple’s anticipated cloud services. The 500,000 square-foot data center is five times larger than the company’s current data center in Newark, Calif.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple “completes” cloud-based music streaming service, users unsure what to expect

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Date: Friday, April 22nd, 2011, 03:10
Category: iTunes, News, Software

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For those of you wondering what the future of Apple’s music plans may be, we might have a hint.

Per the All Things Digital blog, a new report claims that Apple has succeeded in procuring deals with at least two of the four big music labels in the last two months, possibly signaling that the rumored iTunes streaming music service is imminent.

The story reported Thursday that Apple is “actively seeking licenses” for a new cloud-based music locker service and is willing to pay labels for the privilege.

According to author Peter Kafka’s sources, Apple has inked deals with two of the for major labels, which include Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony and EMI within the last two months. One source claimed Apple VP Eddy Cue will be in New York on Friday in an attempt to solidify remaining deals.

“They’ve been very aggressive and thoughtful about it,” Kafka reported an industry executive as saying. “It feels like they want to go pretty soon.”

Kafka’s sources have yet to see the service for themselves, but say they’re aware of the “broad strokes.” “The idea is that Apple will let users store songs they’ve purchased from its iTunes store, as well as others songs stored on their hard drives, and listen to them on multiple devices,” Kafka wrote in his report.

The report comes on the heels of a Reuters report earlier Thursday that claimed Apple had “completed work” on a cloud-based iTunes music streaming service. Citing anonymous sources, the report said Apple is “set to launch” the service, which would store users’ songs on a remote server and allow them to access them from “wherever they have an Internet connection.”

However, a Reuters report claimed that Apple had yet to arrive at new licensing agreements with the labels.

Rival Amazon launched a digital music locker last month without new licensing approval. The online retailer has reportedly faced a backlash from the music industry as a result.

According to Kafka, Apple would be able to create a more “robust service” than Amazon with re-negotiated licenses. That service could include “better user interfaces, sound quality, and other features,” said Kafka.

For example, Kafka has heard that Apple’s new deals with the labels would allow the company to “store a single master copy of a song on its servers and share it with multiple users.”

Apple’s upcoming music streaming service could come in the form of an enhanced version of MobileMe. In February, it was reported that Apple plans to revamp its MobileMe offerings by adding a free ‘locker’ service for storing photos, music and videos.

In 2009, Apple bought streaming music service Lala for $85 million, prompting speculation that iTunes streaming was in the works. However, Apple shuttered Lala last year and the rumored service has yet to materialize.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

NBC Universal balks at iTunes Store 99 cent rental price, seeks higher rates

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Date: Thursday, September 23rd, 2010, 03:37
Category: iTunes, News

It happened before, it can happen again.

Television network NBC Universal is unlikely join a pair of its peers in serving up a la carte TV show rentals to Apple TV users for 99 cents for pop through Apple’s iTunes Store later this year, according to comments from the company’s top executive.

“We do not think 99 cents is the right price point for our content,” NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker said on Wednesday at Goldman Sachs investor conference. “We thought it would devalue our content.”

Per AppleInsider, NBC currently offers iTunes customers the option of purchasing its shows outright forUS $1.99. But like the vast majority of networks that also distribute their content through the digital download service for the same price, it has balked at Apple’s new 99 cent model announced earlier this month alongside the revamped Apple TV set-top box.

Thus far, only Walt Disney’s ABC and News Corp’s Fox have agreed to the price cut, though News Corp President Chase Carey similarly told investors at the same conference Wednesday that its participation in the matter is only a “short-term test.”

For NBC and Zucker, this isn’t the first time they’ve had difficulties with Apple over digital download pricing on the iTunes Store. After accounting for roughly 40% of video downloads through the service in 2007, the network abruptly pulled its video library from iTunes after Apple wouldn’t agree to a reported 100% increase in the wholesale price of each show.

During an October 2007 breakfast hosted by Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications, Zucker even went as far as to single out Apple for ‘destroying’ music pricing and urged his colleagues to take a stand against the company’s iTunes Store, alleging that the service was undermining the ability of traditional media companies to set profitable rates for their content online.


NBC eventually caved to the popularity of the iTunes Store, signing back on with the service to sell its standard definition content for US$1.99 an episode and HD content for US$2.99 an episode less than a year later.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumored Apple streaming service encountering delays, limited version could appear in 2010

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Date: Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010, 05:44
Category: iTunes, News

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As cool an idea as it may be, Apple’s rumored iTunes cloud service is apparently mired in licensing issues and could be further down the road than previously thought, though a limited version of the service could be released in 2010.

Sources told CNet that if ‘in the cloud’ music features from Apple are released in the next few months, they will probably be “modest in scope,” rather than more robust offerings as previously rumored.

After Apple purchased the online music streaming service LaLa late last year, speculation about the possibility of an iTunes streaming service increased. In January, one music industry veteran went on record saying that an upcoming version of iTunes would make users’ iTunes libraries “available from any browser or net connected iPod/touch/tablet.”

Although the article claims that causes for the delay remain unclear, licensing issues and personnel changes may be a large part of the problem. According to the report, Apple “still hasn’t obtained the licenses needed to store or distribute music from the cloud.”

Additionally, music industry sources said Monday that “one of Lala’s four founding members, someone who moved to Apple after the acquisition, has recently left the company.”

These delays could cost Apple if Google launches a competing service first. Although the company has partnered with music streaming services in the past, it has yet to launch a full-featured cloud music service. CNet’s sources report that “Google’s music attempts have never appeared this concrete before.”

On the other hand, positive evidence that the project remains on track can be found by looking at Apple’s US$1 billion North Carolina server farm project. Several analysts are predicting that the project is being built specifically for a cloud media service. In July, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer announced that the server farm is “on schedule” to open by the end of the year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to launch iTunes wireless streaming/sync features in September

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Date: Friday, July 2nd, 2010, 05:52
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, iTunes, Rumor

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Despite everything Apple seems to be fighting with regarding the iPhone 4′s firmware, there may be something cool around the corner.

Per a “reliable” unnamed Apple source, the Boy Genius Report web blog is reporting that Apple will launch new wireless streaming and synchronization features for iTunes at its traditional September iPod event, or possibly sooner, according to a new report.

The report claims that the new features will allow users to stream purchased music and movies from Apple’s servers directly to their devices, eliminating the need for large amounts of local storage, and also stream music and movies from their home computers to their other computers and remote devices over their own Internet connections.

Finally, the report claims that any apps purchased on an iOS device would immediately and wirelessly sync back to the user’s home computers, along with any changes to Calendar, Notes, or Contacts; it is unclear whether this latter feature would supplant or be available in addition to Apple’s paid MobileMe service.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what’s on your mind about this.

Apple Purchases Lala Streaming Service, Analyst Predicts Steps Towards Mobile iTunes Content

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Date: Monday, December 7th, 2009, 07:39
Category: iTunes, News

Apple’s purchase of the Lala streaming music service could set up an infrastructure for iTunes content and purchases to be accessed from multiple locations via a Web browser, one analyst has predicted.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Maynard J. Um of UBS Investment Research stated in a note that the purchase of Lala supports the idea that Apple is building a cloud-based system to allow access of content across all of its products on Monday morning. The purchase could tie in to Apple’s $1 billion server farm project which found a home in North Carolina this past summer.

“We believe the Lala acquisition fits into our view that Apple is building a data center for a service to provide seamless access & mobility of digital content across all of its products, including media-focused content of iTunes and user-generated content of MobileMe,” Um said. “Lala gives Apple browser/Web-based technology to access music anywhere.”

Apple made its first integration between the browser and iTunes in November, when iTunes Preview was quietly released. Links generated via iTunes direct to a Web site that gives customers the option to view content without launching Apple’s desktop media suite. Previously, users who did not have iTunes installed were prompted to do so in order to view content.

Apple’s purchase of Lala was confirmed last week, though the terms of the agreement have not been revealed. The , Palo Alto, California-based company has a catalog of over 8 million songs, and allows users to match songs on their PCs to its licensed content, and then play them anywhere on the Web through a browser. DRM-free songs can be downloaded for about 89 cents, while Web-only streams are about 10 cents.

“Lala also allows users to browse friends’ collections, create/listen to playlists, & get updates when new or recommended music is added to their sites,” Um said. “The service is similar to Apple’s Genius feature except driven by real people (vs. algorithms).”

He believes that the purchase of Lala will widen Apple’s “halo” that draws consumers to purchase Apple products. By allowing iTunes content to be more easily accessed across a variety of Apple-branded devices, the purchase could further future hardware sales.

In October, Lala, along with iLike, entered a partnership with Google to allow users to quickly discover song previews, artist info, pictures, video and more. Currently, Google searches for artists or songs can return a full, streaming, embedded song at the top of results, courtesy of Lala.

Rumor: Apple Looking Into Creating $30/Month iTunes TV Subscription Service

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Date: Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009, 05:10
Category: iTunes, Rumor

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If you want additional television content over iTunes, you might not have that much longer to wait.

Per MediaMemo, Apple has reportedly reached out to TV networks in recent weeks with a proposed US$30/month subscription plan to deliver content via iTunes — a service it hopes to launch in early 2010.

Citing multiple sources, the article stated that Apple’s subscription proposal is not based on any specific piece of hardware, like the Apple TV or forthcoming tablet. Rather, the plan would stick with the existing iTunes desktop software.

“Apple has told industry executives it wants to launch the service early next year,” the report said, “but I have yet to hear of a single programmer that has made a firm commitment to the company, which has tasked iTunes boss Eddy Cue with promoting the idea.”

If anyone does bite, the first expected is Disney, of which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is the largest shareholder. Disney was the first to allow its content on iTunes and saw tremendous early success.

Kafka said that industry executives are “intrigued” by the prospect of a subscription plan on iTunes, as they are looking for new revenue streams as advertising returns diminish. However, cable networks are concerned about sacrificing existing relationships with providers like Comcast, and all content providers are worried that advertising revenue could decrease if live viewership shrinks.

“So Apple’s proposed subscription service, which the company has floated in the past, is no longer a huge stretch,” the report said. “Says one executive briefed on the company’s plans: ‘I think they might get it right this time.’”

Apple has been long rumored to provide a subscription option for TV content. In August, Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray senior research analyst, said he believes that Apple would release a new Apple TV in conjunction with a subscription TV account. But the agreements necessary to offer a subscription service would take some time.

“Apple could leverage its deep library of content with many network and cable channel content owners to provide unlimited access to a sub-library of its TV shows for a standard monthly fee ($30 or $40 per month),” Munster writes. “Such a product would effectively replace a consumer’s monthly cable bill (~$85/month) and offer access to current and older episodes of select shows on select channels.”

Last week, the Apple TV software was updated to version 3.0. Improvements included a newly redesigned interface, support for iTunes Extras and iTunes LP, and streaming Internet radio.