Apple working on unlimited downloads of purchased iTunes music, setting MobileMe free?

You know all that rumor and speculation about Apple launching a subscription-based streaming music service? Forget it -- at least until the next rumor comes along. Bloomberg is citing three people with knowledge of private talks between Apple, Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music to make purchased music more easily accessible to iTunes users. Two sources claim that an agreement could be announced by midyear. Contrary to popular speculation aroused by Apple's purchase of Lala, they're not talking about streaming music from Apple's new North Carolina data center scheduled to come online in the spring. According to Bloomberg's sources, Apple is instead, planning to offer unlimited downloads to any device linked to the same iTunes account. So, purchase a track on your iPhone and download it again for free to your iPad without having to go back and tether the mobile device to your PC or Mac for a sync. Hard disk crash? No worries, there's a permanent backup in the cloud. Of course, there's nothing preventing Apple from providing unlimited downloads in parallel with a streaming service except for the labels and artists who prefer the higher revenues paid out by download services. Then again, if it was left to them we'd still be buying our music on $15 CDs.

Incidentally, one Bloomberg source was also caught blabbing about Apple's plans to overhaul the MobileMe service to store pictures, video, and other online content sometime this year. Better yet, it could drop from $99 per year to free -- something already reported by the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago.