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Wednesday, February 23, 2011, 11:25 am PT (02:25 pm ET)

Apple says NC data center will support iTunes and MobileMe this spring

Apple's North Carolina data center is expected to open this spring, and will support the iTunes and MobileMe services, the company said during its annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, where AppleInsider was in attendance.

The news suggests that Apple has experienced some delays with the new $1 billion data center in Maiden, N.C., as last October the company said it expected the facility to open "any day now."

Apple also said at its shareholder meeting that the North Carolina facility will be the company's second data center. The Mac maker has a multi-million dollar facility in Newark, Calif., that was originally built for telecommunications company MCI WorldCom.

For comparison, the existing Newark facility, acquired for an estimated $50 million back in 2006, is 107,000 square feet. Apple's new North Carolina data center will be nearly five times that, at 500,000 square feet, and there have even been suggestions that Apple is already looking to double it to a million square feet.

In addition to iTunes and MobileMe, the new North Carolina facility will also support Apple's corporate systems. But it's the uses for iTunes and MobileMe that will undoubtedly fuel speculation about Apple's long-rumored plans for a cloud-based iTunes streaming service.

Talk of Apple's potential future cloud services has picked up steam again recently, with a new rumor that the company plans to enhance its MobileMe service with a digital online "locker" that would store users' personal files, such as music, photos and videos. It was also said that Apple has considered making MobileMe, which currently costs $99 per year, a free service.

In addition, another report suggested that Apple's cloud plans would instead have users serve up their own files from a home computer. Content such as music could be streamed over the Internet to a connected device like an iPhone, as long as the "host" computer is active.