Bloomberg reports that Apple is in talks with the record companies to possibly give iTunes customers easier access to their music across multiple devices. Those familiar with the situation say a deal could be announced by midyear.
This setup would provide users with a permanent home in the cloud for their iTunes purchases, making it easier to access your purchased content on all of your devices. Currently, Apple customers must go through a dance of connecting each device to their computers and using the iTunes software to sync their media. A process which has many users frustrated.
This is different from reports that Apple would leverage the technology obtained through their acquisition of LaLa to provide a streaming music service. Rather than streaming from the cloud, users would be able to bypass connecting to their home computers in order to sync up their music and other media.
Another avenue being explored is MobileMe, Apple's cloud-based email service. Many were wondering why there was no mention of MobileMe at Apple's iPad 2 event. The word was that Apple would revamp the service, adding the ability to store different media types and possibly drop the price from $99/yr to free. When it was reported that retail boxes for MobileMe were disappearing from stores and the service was going online online, it seemed to be confirmation of major changes to come.
In any case, it's clear that Apple is looking at making their digital downloads business more flexible. Services like Pandora and Slacker Radio are gaining ground as they are easy to use from anywhere. The record companies may be reluctant to jump on a streaming service with Apple, but cloud storage for purachsed digital media could serve as a middle ground.