This is interesting – Apple have never operated a subscription service before, and Steve Jobs has gone on record saying that he didn’t like the idea of “renting” music. However, three prominent Apple blogs are all reporting that they’ve had an email from a tipster suggesting that an iTunes subscription service might be announced in late September.
The service, titled iTunes Unlimited, would run alongside Mobileme and cost $130 a year – you wouldn’t be able to subscribe for less time than that. Here are the full details of the tip:
– 256 Kbps music; highest quality digital music subscription service ever
– 50% of U.S. store available for iTunes Unlimited at launch, U.S.-only launch
– Available through iTunes or retail box a la MobileMe, funds applied through iTunes gift cards cannot be used towards subscription purchase
– $129.99 stand-alone or $179.99 with MobileMe, current MobileMe subscribers can add iTunes Unlimited for $99.99
– One-year subscription period
– Current a la carte options unchanged
– When signed in to subscription account, “Buy” is “Get”
– “Download and Play throughout iTunes Unlimited Subscription” or “Buy and Keep”
– “Buy and Keep” option available for downloaded subscription songs, purchased version replaces subscription version
– Late October launch with iTunes 7.8
Obviously this is just a rumour, and has been submitted identically to several sites, which further decreases its credibility, but if there’s any company that could succeed in running a subscription music service, it’s Apple. All other attempts have failed so far. Of course, this is just the latest iteration of the Apple subscription service rumour – which competes with the Beatles on iTunes announcement and the Apple graphics tablet as the most long-running Apple rumour which hasn’t yet come true.
The rumours also mention disk access to the iPhone and iPod touch, but I think these are even less likely than iTunes Unlimited. Apple, more than any other tech company, doesn’t like people screwing around with the innards of their products. Why would they suddenly enable access to all the juicy bits for hackers?
UPDATE: Looks like this isn’t likely. Kevin Rose (of Digg) has said that it’s a load of rubbish, but that there are new music discovery features coming in iTunes 8. They’ve got a lot of catching up to do, after all. I guess we’ll find out on September 9th.