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Apple music streaming service coming in 2013?

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An Apple music streaming service could launch as early as the first quarter of 2013, according to reports.

Unnamed sources “with knowledge of talks” have told Bloomberg that Apple is in negotiations with major music labels as it seeks to strike a deal by mid-November ahead of a launch date some time in the first three months of next year.

The service will reportedly take the form of an ad-supported Internet radio player, much like Pandora. However Apple wants to gain an advantage over existing services by negotiating a deal that gives listeners more flexibility. Pandora limits the times a user can listen to a certain artist every hour and how many tracks they can skip. Apple also wants earlier access to new releases.

Bloomberg says Apple’s efforts to speed talks up are due to a slowdown in the sale of music downloads as listeners instead turn to streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify. However, it appears there is still some way to go before a deal is finalised, as the record labels want a percentage of the ad sales and the right to insert their own ads, in addition to an upfront fee. Apple wants to control advertising itself using iAds.

While we don’t think avid users of Spotify Premium will be migrating to a free but more restrictive and ad-supported service any time soon, we can definitely see an Apple-run service crushing Pandora in the countries in which it’s available (the US, Australia and New Zealand). Over in the UK there isn’t really any popular alternative, giving Apple a clear run at taking pole position.

We’ll keep you posted on more developments. In the meantime, let us know in the comments box below what you think of the rumours.

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