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Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 10:30 am PT (01:30 pm ET)

Apple's iTunes cloud could be free at first, but will eventually require a fee

Apple has reportedly told music executives that its cloud-based iTunes streaming service could be offered for free at first, but the company eventually plans to charge customers for hosting content on its servers.

Citing insiders in the music industry, CNet reported Tuesday that Apple is expected to charge — if not at first, then eventually — for its music cloud service. The long-rumored iTunes cloud will allow users to stream their music and media to Internet-connected devices, negating the need for content to be stored locally on a connected device like an iPhone or iPad.

Exactly how much Apple might charge for the service remains unknown. In fact, Apple has apparently told music executives that it has "completed" work on its streaming music service, but has not given specifics on how the product will work.

Instead, Apple has only reportedly offered up a description of the service in "broad strokes" to music executives. Sources have indicated that Apple will allow users to store songs they have purchased from the company's iTunes Music Store and other locally stored content and listen to them on multiple devices.

Apple is said to have already inked a deal with Warner Music for the iTunes cloud. Another report from last week claims that Apple has reached agreements with two of the four major music labels, though it is not known if Warner is one of the two, or if it is a third that has agreed.

Apple's rival Amazon launched its own digital music locker last month, allowing users to upload their own music files to Amazon's servers. The online retailer offers 5GB of free online storage, and premium accounts that are expandable up to 1,000GB for a fee, while customers who purchase an MP3 album are entitled to 20GB of storage for one year.

But Amazon has also faced backlash from the music industry, as it did not secure any licensing agreements from record labels before launching its service. In addition, Google's own plans for a cloud-based music streaming service are said to be at a standstill in negotiations with the labels.