Apple's plans for a potential streaming music service have been a point of discussion and speculation for more than a year now, ever since it acquired and subsequently shuttered streaming music service Lala in December of 2009.
But news leaking over the weekend about a new, smaller version of the iPhone offers the first real concrete evidence that such as service is more than just an idea, but an eventual certainty.
A Bloomberg story outlined the details of a prototype iPhone that would be smaller and cheaper (about $200) than today's existing devices, and could work on most any wireless network.
The Wall Street Journal later reported much the same information, but added news that Apple is planning a re-launch of its MobileMe online storage service. Currently the MobileMe service lets users store their calendar and e-mail contacts in an online server and then access it from any Apple-supported Internet-connected device for a yearly fee of $99. The WSJ report says that Apple is "considering making MobileMe a free service that would serve as a 'locker' for personal memorabilia such as photos, music and videos."
The upgrade to MobileMe has been speculated for some time. That Apple has built a massive data storage center in North Carolina has only fueled speculation about what kind of content it plans to store and stream.
So let's add up the parts: a data storage center designed to warehouse and stream content, a service that lets users stream content to Internet-connected devices, and a new device designed with less storage capacity so as to make it cheaper and smaller. All point to a stream media service of some kind.
Whether music is included all depends on the licensing. We already know Google is pursuing a music locker service with the labels now, and the slow-going is due to hammering out an entirely new licensing agreement for the first time. The ground work done with Google could benefit Apple should it decide to actively pursue it. Label sources continue to define their talks with Apple as "preliminary" in regards to any locker/streaming service.
The WSJ article says the new MobileMe service could launch as early as June. And it could, but not likely with the music portion fully baked.