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Apple's potential Web-based iTunes will be 'social, not streaming'

Apple may reveal a "big overhaul" of its iTunes Music Store next week, likely to be a lightweight Web version, but the service will not be updated to allow users to stream their content from the cloud, music executives have said.

Peter Kafka of Media Memo spoke with music executives who indicated that Apple has not yet approached the largest labels to obtain the necessary licenses for offering streaming content. Executives, however, said they do expect iTunes to be overhauled, even without a streaming service, and the new iTunes could be unveiled at next Wednesday's event. He said users should "think social, not streaming."

"Apple plays its cards close to the vest even with the music labels it works with, so the people I've talked to are making informed guesses," Kafka said. "That said, music sources tell me they're expecting a lightweight, Web-based version of the iTunes store. The new version would be designed to sync up easily with the rest o the Internet and make it much easier for customers to share their musical tastes (but not songs) with friends."

Executives said they believe a Web-based version will allow buyers to purchase content through the Web-based version. It could also offer easier integration for services like Twitter and Facebook, allowing users to link to the store and share playlists, songs and albums.

"Some label executives also speculate about a wireless system that makes it easier for you to manage iTunes purchases," he wrote. "In theory, Apple could make it possible for you to move a copy of a song you bought on your iPhone onto your laptop without having to manually connect the two devices."

While Apple's current contracts do offer it the ability to add features like wireless syncing of purchases on up to five devices at a time, they do not have the necessary deals to offer a cloud-based streaming service. Kafka said it's "possible, but not probable" that the company could go ahead and launch such a service without the necessary deals from record companies.

Apple first began migrating iTunes to the cloud last November, when it quietly launched iTunes Preview. The Web-based service allows users to view iTunes content without launching Apple's desktop media management application. Subsequent updates have brought about browser-based song sampling and the ability to view App Store software.