Apple iTunes Announcement Sets Off Rampant Speculation

Apple is prepping for an iTunes announcement Nov. 16, leading to rampant speculation over a possible music-streaming service, or possibly the Beatles' catalog.

Apple is planning an iTunes-related announcement for the morning of Nov. 16, tipped by an enigmatic message on its corporate Website-"Tomorrow is just another day. That you'll never forget."-predictably triggering massive speculation across the blogosphere.

According to Apple's Website, the announcement is set for 7 A.M. PST, 10 A.M. EST, 3 P.M. in London, and midnight in Tokyo.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster suggested in a Nov. 15 research note that Apple is planning a cloud-based service for streaming multimedia content via iTunes. "Apple is developing a data center in Maiden, N.C., that we believe could serve as the hub for such a service," he wrote, according to the blog Apple Insider. "The company has indicated that the data center is on track to be completed by the end of [2010] and it will begin using it then."

Munster added that a streaming service would "leverage" Apple's growing family of mobile devices, as well as the new Apple TV. Streaming music is currently unavailable on iTunes, although rival services-including Microsoft's Zune Pass-offer some form of it for a set price.

Other blogosphere chatter offers up the possibility of the Beatles' song catalog finally appearing on iTunes. If so, Paul McCartney's Twitter feed is mum on the possibility. The Beatles' availability on iTunes, of course, would spark the question of how many different formats of "Abbey Road" or the "Revolver" a fan can possibly purchase in a single lifetime.

On Nov. 15, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had indeed secured the rights to the Beatles' music, quoting unnamed "people familiar with the situation."

In December 2009, Apple acquired Lala Media, which hosted an online streaming music service, and rumors quickly erupted that it planned to incorporate the smaller company's technology into iTunes. Lala and Apple executives remained tight-lipped about future plans, and Apple shut the service down in May.

Lala allowed users to stream a particular song as many times as they liked, in exchange for a mere 10 cents. Additionally, users could purchase and download songs and albums from the company's Website.

Lala Media had formerly found itself to be a chess piece in a brief game of acquisitions between Apple and Google. The search-engine giant first attempted to purchase the music service, before Apple stepped in with an $85 million offer. Google's tit-for-tat response was to shell out $750 million for mobile display ad company AdMob, on which Apple also had its eye.

Ever since, pundits and analysts have wondered how Apple would choose to deploy Lala's assets in a new configuration. On Sept. 1, Apple introduced Ping, a social-networking service that allows the 160 million iTunes users to share their opinions on music and artists. Despite a collapse in talks that would have allowed users to seed Ping with their Facebook contacts, Ping users can now use their Twitter account to follow additional Ping users.

But as with any Apple announcement, trust rumors to fly and the company to remain predictably secretive until show time on Nov. 16.