Apple and other music retailers purportedly looking at 24-bit, high-fidelity audio downloads

Digital downloads, at least pertaining to music, have come a long, long way. The iTunes Music Store in particular has surpassed Walmart as America's leading seller of music, and it's evolved from a DRM-laden mess to a restriction-free(ish) marketplace with higher-than-average bitrate support. But it seems that 256kbps simply isn't high enough. According to unnamed "executives involved in talks," Apple -- as well as a few other digital music retailers -- are currently in discussions with labels to "improve the quality of the song files they sell." Essentially, these retailers are hoping to hawk 24-bit audio rather than the compressed 16-bit files available today, possibly with a price premium attached. The real trick, however, won't be coercing the labels to cooperate, but to retool future devices to actually play back 24-bit files. iTunes itself is already capable of handling 'em, but the iPod, iPhone and a slew of other handheld devices aren't. The report doesn't mention how close to a deal anyone is, but we're guessing it'll be sooner rather than later. Here's hoping the iPhone 5 ships with 128GB of capacity -- we're going to need an awful lot of space to handle those lossless Police albums.