updated 11:30 pm EDT, Wed May 18, 2011
Apple gets EMI for cloud music, near done
Music label insiders revealed late Wednesday that Apple had signed on EMI for its cloud music service. The company had already landed Warner for its service, so far known as iCloud, and now had half the major labels it needed. The contacts informed CNET that only Sony and Universal were left and that their deals were close enough that they could be ready by next week.
Successful deals would have very convenient timing for Apple. Having the labels onboard would give Apple the go-ahead to finalize the service roughly two weeks before WWDC, where most expect Apple to show if not switch on iCloud. Apple has already said that its North Carolina datacenter, intended for iTunes, MobileMe and likely iCloud, would go live in the spring.
The industry tips didn't confirm the timing.
Apple's plans are expected to be considerably more advanced than either Amazon's Cloud Player or Google Music Beta. Both of the rivals were first but, because they refused to license label music, require that listeners upload their own collections; they also can't upload from a mobile device. Apple's system would let users match up their iTunes collections against a database and have access to any song iTunes recognizes. It would help skip hours or even days of uploading music as well as eliminate the quality drops in Google's system, where non-MP3 songs have to be transcoded.
Apple's service may eventually cost money. Google wouldn't have an edge on it, though, as it has warned Music Beta might carry a fee by the time it leaves beta. Amazon may follow suit as it's negotiating with labels as well.