Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is to announce a European rollout of the music storage service iCloud, with the U.K. expected to be the first major market outside the U.S. to get authorization.
Industry sources also indicated that Apple would discontinue the iPod Classic, which launched 10 years ago this month, as it focuses on a new generation of Internet-connected devices.
The Apple chief executive, Tim Cook, will announce the rollout in a press conference at the company’s Cupertino headquarters on Tuesday, along with the iPhone 5.
The expansion of “iTunes in the Cloud” from the US, where it was made available in the US in June, will allow people who have bought songs from Apple’s iTunes Music Store to synchronize them among multiple devices such as PCs, iPhones and iPads via wireless connections. Previously they would have to connect them to a computer and synchronize them.
The technology giant has been locked in negotiations with the four major music groups–EMI, Sony (NYSE: SNE), Warner and Universal–to seal the “iTunes in the Cloud” deal in time for Tuesday’s announcement.
“Apple has been sitting at tables to get this through, as opposed to Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) who have just been seeing how much they can get away with,” said one person with knowledge of Apple’s plans. Amazon and Google launched their own “music locker” schemes in the US, letting people store their music online, but there is little evidence that they have seen any broad takeup. Neither service is available outside the US.
The “iTunes in the Cloud” service is part of Apple’s broader free iCloud service, which will synchronise users’ photos and videos to its servers and allow downloads to registered devices.
The expansion of iCloud marks Apple’s biggest European move since the introduction of the iTunes Music Store by Steve Jobs in 2004 and the iPhone in November 2007. However, no U.K. launch is expected yet for iTunes Match, the subscription system by which all of a user’s library–including songs from CDs or downloaded from filesharing networks, as well as purchased songs–can be downloaded to devices.
The expected discontinuation of the “classic” iPod has been expected for some time. Sales of the iPod family–consisting of the Shuffle, Nano, Classic and Internet-enabled iPod Touch – have been dwindling since the beginning of 2009, and the iPod Touch now makes up half of all units shifted. The focus on the internet-enabled Touch, which can also be used to buy and download apps, acts as an “entry point” to Apple’s App Store, and as a junior partner to the iPhone.
Apple first unveiled iCloud at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 6th.
The so-called “cloud-based locker” stores peoples’ photos, films and purchased music online so that they can be accessed on a number of devices. It will be tied into new software for Apple devices, called iOS5.
iCloud has been available only in the U.S. since its launch in June. Legal difficulties that prevents the copying of music files has prevented its launch in the U.K., where it is still technically unlawful to store copies of music on an MP3 player.
A UK launch for iCloud began to look more likely in August when the business secretary, Vince Cable, confirmed plans to relax current laws around the copying of music in response to the Hargreaves report.
Major record labels are understood to have privately agreed to “turn a blind eye” to Apple’s iCloud player, given the influence of the technology company’s music services.
In the U.S., music fans can pay $24.99 a year for an iCloud service called iTunes Match, which replicates tracks stored on a user’s computer with better-quality alternatives in the cloud. Unlike iCloud, iTunes Match is not thought to be introduced outside of the U.S. on Thursday, but will follow at a later date.
Only last week Apple announced that iTunes was now available in all 27 EU member states, after adding 12 more territories on September 29th, including Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic and Poland.
Sony Music, Warner Music, Universal Music and EMI had not returned a request for comment at the time of publication. Apple declined to comment.
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.