Last month, Apple released an update to their MobileMe iDisk app for iOS and among the newly introduced features was the application's ability to “play audio from your iDisk while using another app”.
The new feature on the MobileMe iDisk iPhone app lets users to play music files in the background over Wi-Fi as well as over 3G.
While this feature has existed for over a month now, a number of bloggers have now started wondering if this could be Cupertino's latest leap towards the launch of an iTunes in-the-cloud. In a recent article on Gizmodo, blogger Brian Barrett writes:
"Well this was unexpected: Apple has quietly enabled its devices to stream music to iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches from online storage through iDisk. It's the very next-best thing to putting iTunes in the cloud."
However, according to Michael Robertson, the founder of MP3.com and the person who has sparked the recent debate, the latest feature on the iDisk app may be a nice complimentary feature to let users stream music though this is not in any way a proper music streaming service that the cloud-based iTunes is supposed to be. He writes:
"This is not "iTunes in the cloud" but it is definitely moving the Cupertino company in that direction. First off there is no automated way to get all your iTunes music to your iDisk account. To load files to iDisk you have to select individual files and upload them from your browser. (Apple does let you sync Calendars, Contacts, Bookmarks, etc directly from OSX but excludes music files.) Secondly there's no support for playlists so your iTunes playlist do not work in iDisk. There seems to be no way to play a list of files. Cover art is not supported as well. And while iDisk will cache other files, it will not cache music files. Still it's not hard to see how Apple is adding features to enable it to support audio in it's cloud storage business."
Ever since Apple acquired Lala late last year, there have been constant speculations over the imminent launch of a cloud-based iTunes service. The company is reported to be working on a new system that would enable users to store their iTunes library on Apple's servers and in turn be able to connect to their libraries from an array on internet connected Apple devices.
While the new iDisk feature may appear to be a minor step in this direction, there are concerns that the streaming capabilities of MobileMe iDisk may violate the present music label licensing deals. Under these circumstances, it will be interesting to see how the label companies react to the revelation about the new music streaming feature.
Are you interested in a cloud-based iTunes service? What do you expect from it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.