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Thursday, May 19, 2011, 09:20 pm PT (12:20 am ET)

Apple strikes deal with Sony for streaming iTunes music service - report

Apple has reportedly inked a licensing deal with Sony Corp.'s music division to begin offering the label's catalog in the cloud, leaving Universal Music Group as the last holdout among the major record labels.

Bloomberg reports that Apple has reached licensing accords with Sony Corp., EMI Group, and Warner Music Group to allow users to access song collections from mobile devices via the Internet. Prior reports had noted that EMI and Warner were on board with Apple's plan for a cloud-based service.

Though Universal Music Group, the largest recording company, has yet to agree to a deal, Apple and the label are close to reaching an agreement, according to one person with knowledge of the deals. After signing licensing agreements with the labels, Apple would also need to renegotiate agreements with music publishers, which control different rights than the labels, the report noted.

Sources said plans for the new service could be previewed as early as next month at Apple's sold-out Worldwide Developer Conference. According to a report last month, Apple has finished work on the service, which is being held up by pending music label and publisher agreements.

People familiar with the matter said Apple's rumored cloud music service won't require users to upload online collections, giving the company a significant advantage over rivals Google and Amazon. Amazon launched its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player services in March, and Google launched a Music Beta cloud service last week.

Although Google and Amazon beat Apple to market with their cloud music services, music industry sources have expressed the belief that Apple's take on cloud music will be vastly superior. Both Google and Amazon reportedly chose not to secure music label support before launching their services.

Mounting evidence suggests that Apple is planning a new "iCloud" service. AppleInsider exclusively reported last month that Apple's plans for iCloud include more than just streaming music. Sources suggest that iCloud will be the central component of a revamped MobileMe that could bring a variety of personal data and media into the cloud.

After getting off to a rocky start, MobileMe struggled to gain traction. In 2008, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the MobileMe team to task for the service's troubled launch. "You've tarnished Apple's reputation..." Jobs reportedly said. "You should hate each other for having let each other down…"