Apple negotiating unlimited iTunes downloads across iOS devices

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is reportedly in talks with four major record labels to give iTunes users expanded access to their digital music across multiple devices running the computing giant's iOS operating system. Citing three people with knowledge of the negotiations, Bloomberg reports Apple is petitioning Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music and Warner Music Group to expand their current licensing agreement to give consumers more control and flexibility over their digital music libraries--in addition to granting users access to the same iTunes account across iPhone, iPod and iPad units, the new deal also would offer permanent backup of music purchases in the event the original files are damaged or lost. Sources indicate an agreement could be announced as soon as mid-year; Apple and its label partners all declined to comment.

iTunes sales account for 69 percent of all digital downloads in the U.S., according to research firm NPD Group. Many onlookers expected Apple to introduce its own streaming iTunes service sometime in 2010, but the project is apparently on hold. Reports surfaced last summer indicating that Apple has yet to negotiate the licensing agreements necessary to offer a streaming music solution--multiple questions also surround the status of technologies and executives acquired with Apple's 2009 purchase of streaming music startup Lala, a deal rumored to be valued at $85 million. Apple shut down the Lala service May 31, 2010.

Some insiders believe Apple has delayed its cloud service plans to expand the initiative into video streaming--sources inside Hollywood studios indicate Apple plans to offer "digital shelves" enabling consumers to store movies and television content on the company's servers. Others speculate the holdup is directly related to Apple's new $1 billion server farm in North Carolina--multiple sources have said the servers will make up the backbone of the cloud solution. Speaking last month during Apple's annual shareholder meeting, CFO Peter Oppenheimer stated the facility will serve as a hub for iTunes as well as Apple's MobileMe data sync solution.

For more:
- read this Bloomberg article

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