Apple, Beatles, iTunes: The Long and Winding Road

Apple is offering the Beatles' 13 studio albums and associated material through iTunes, ending what many considered a glaring omission from the music service.

Apple is offering the Beatles' 13 studio albums through its iTunes service, alongside extras such as the "Live at the Washington Coliseum, 1964" concert film. The famed band's absence from Apple's music service was long considered a glaring omission.

Apple Corps, which publishes the Beatles' work, had long resisted delivering the Fab Four's work in an online format, preferring a series of CD releases over the past decade. By that standard, the 2009 decision to offer the complete Beatles albums on a special-edition USB stick could be considered a major technological leap. Apple Inc.'s terms with Apple Corps for the iTunes albums were not disclosed, but given the Beatles' past contractual savvy, it seems unlikely that the two living band members, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, are receiving the short end of the financial stick.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs wasted no time making a Beatles-song-themed quip. "We love the Beatles and are honored and thrilled to welcome them to iTunes," he wrote in a Nov. 16 statement posted on his company's Website. "It has been a long and winding road to get here."

As expected, the surviving Beatles also offered statements:

"We're really excited to bring the Beatles' music to iTunes," wrote Sir Paul McCartney. "It's fantastic to see the songs we originally released on vinyl receive as much love in the digital world as they did the first time around."

Mirroring Steve Jobs, Ringo Starr's comment hinted at the long process involved in porting the band's catalog onto Apple's music service. "I am particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes," he wrote. "At least, if you want it-you can get it now-The Beatles from Liverpool to now!"

Apple, Inc. and Apple Corps have long been at each other's throats over the right to use a piece of fruit as a corporate name. The first settlement came in 1981, when Apple Computer paid Apple Corps millions to keep its name, with the promise it would stay away from the music business.

The two companies tangled in 1989, with Apple Corps, arguing that Apple's audio-recording applications violated that initial agreement, and then in 2003, after Apple launched the iTunes Music Store. In 2007, they reached an agreement-for a publicly undisclosed sum-under which Apple Inc. would own all Apple-related trademarks, while licensing a handful of those to Apple Corps for its use.

"We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks," Steve Jobs wrote in a February 2007 press release. "It feels great to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future."

Those years of legal action doubtlessly made the attorneys rich, but it may have slowed the Beatles' arrival on iTunes. Apple is making the band's albums available for $12.99 each, with songs priced at $1.29, in addition to a $149 Beatles Box Set with the albums, mini-documentaries and other materials.