Apple will launch iRadio streaming service this summer, report claims

Apple iCloud musicWith Apple being the secretive outfit that it is, there are always plenty of rumors doing the rounds about what high-tech goodies it might or might not have up its sleeve.

Recent talk has focused on the so-called iTV and the possibility of an iWatch. And over the weekend, another i-product hit the headlines, though admittedly not for the first time.

A report from The Verge over the weekend claimed iRadio, a music streaming service set to rival the likes of Spotify and Pandora, is gearing up for a summer launch.

“iRadio is coming. There’s no doubt about it anymore,” music industry insiders told the tech site. The “multiple” sources added that talks between Apple and leading music labels such as Universal and Warner had taken significant steps forward recently, increasing the chances of a launch in the coming months.

According to a recent New York Post report, the Cupertino company is pushing for a deal that would result in it paying 6 cents per 100 song streams. Pandora is reportedly paying 12 cents for the same number of song streams, while Spotify is said to be paying around 35 cents.

“Music label insiders suggest Apple — which is sitting on a cash hoard of roughly $137 billion — ought to pay at least the rate set by the Copyright Royalty Board, or about 21 cents per 100 songs streamed,” the Post reported.

So would the music labels really ink a deal with the tech giant for that kind of money? With Apple’s iDevices and iTunes software so widely used, quite possibly. And if they do, and Apple launches iRadio some time this year, Albert Fried & Co. analyst Richard Tullo believes the service could pull in some 20 million users in its first 12 months. Pandora, which launched in 2005, is believed to have around 150 million users.

There have been several reports over the last six months or so suggesting Apple is prepping a streaming radio service. In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that a free, ad-supported service would be made available across all of Apple’s hardware products – ie. its mobile devices and Mac computers – and possibly PCs running Windows, too.

And in February, graphic designer Austin Smith was tinkering with iOS 6.1’s system files on his iPod Touch when he stumbled across data linked to icons showing an antenna broadcasting a signal while exploring. No, Apple developers won’t have thrown them in there just for the fun of it.

There’s currently no word on whether iRadio would get a global launch or be restricted to US-based users at the beginning.