NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO The Beatles on Apple's iTunes? Let it be.
The Fab Four's music is expected, finally, to be available for sale at Apple Inc's online music store, a source said after the consumer electronics giant signalled a major announcement about iTunes set for Tuesday -- igniting a frenzy of speculation.
The source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Apple has struck a deal to bring the Beatles' catalogue to iTunes, but the source would not elaborate.
The Beatles -- arguably the most famous band of all time -- have been the most prominent hold-out from the iTunes Store, the world's No. 1 music retailer, and rumours about an agreement with Apple have circulated for years.
EMI Group Ltd, the Beatles' record label, declined to comment. Apple also declined comment on the news, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
On Monday, Apple gave over the entire front page of its website to tease an announcement scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (3 p.m. British time) Tuesday, but gave few decipherable clues.
"Tomorrow is just another day. That you'll never forget," the message read.
The company usually hosts a media event when it wants to unveil a major new product or service, but Tuesday's iTunes announcement will be made online, which only added to the initial mystery.
The Beatles were at the forefront of a worldwide "British Invasion" in the 1960s, recording such classic albums as "A Hard Day's Night," "Revolver" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," rated by Rolling Stone Magazine as the greatest album of all time.
Getting on iTunes may introduce the Beatles, who broke up in 1970, to a new generation of tech-savvy online music fans.
The iTunes store has helped redefine music retailing since its launch in 2003. More than 10 billion songs have been downloaded from the site, which features a music catalogue of more than 12 million titles. Apple has also branched into selling and renting movies and TV shows.
CLOUD ITUNES STILL TO COME?
Apple's cryptic iTunes notice on Monday triggered debate among analysts and bloggers about what Apple might announce. It has been rumoured for months that Apple will launch a "cloud" -- or Web-based -- version of iTunes.
Such a service would allow users to stream content over a network onto various devices, but analysts said Apple still needs to line up agreements with music labels, whom the company has repeatedly clashed with the over the years.
"There's been a lot of speculation about iTunes.com, with the cloud. I'm not sure if that's ready. It's really more around partnerships, content partnerships, before they can announce anything," said Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu.
A cloud-based offering would represent a departure from the current iTunes service. Rather than storing downloaded music locally on computers, users' content would be housed remotely on Apple's servers, meaning they can theoretically be accessed and played from an Internet-connected device.
There are plenty of hints Apple is moving towards some sort of Web-based iTunes. In December 2009, Apple acquired streaming music service LaLa.
In addition, the company is spending $1 billion (622 million pounds) to build a massive data centre in North Carolina and expects to begin using it by the end of the year.
The shares of Cupertino, California-based Apple fell 0.3 percent to close at $307.04 on the Nasdaq.
(Editing by Andre Grenon, Edwin Chan, Gary Hill)