Updated: Apple’s Mysterious News: Beatles Deal Done

Another day, and another oblique hint of something new from Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). Today, the homepages of the company’s website and iTunes store have been taken over by a row of clocks with times in California, New York, London and Tokyo, and the words, “Tomorrow is just another day. That you’ll never forget.” Turns out, as The Wall Street Journal first reported, the long-awaited deal is done to get the Beatles catalog onto iTunes.

The initial word on the street was that the announcement has to do with adding cloud functionality to the iTunes store, which could pave the way to streaming music and other content. Indeed, there are a lot of arrows pointing in this direction: a new data center that Apple is polishing in North Carolina; a cloud service already available with Apple TV; the Lala streaming service that Apple bought and then shut down without explanation, and of course the growing number of streaming-based content services that are out there already and catching the eyes of consumers.

A cloud music service from Apple could be major. The company already controls 28 percent of the overall U.S. music market and 70 percent of the download market, according to NPD. Getting involved in a cloud-based offering, and potentially streaming, would be a major endorsement of these areas – but also a killer for the rest of those trying to carve out marketshare, from Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) to Spotify and Zune.

There’s lots more that could come out of something like a cloud-based iTunes service, such as partnerships between Apple and mobile operators, and perhaps broadband providers, to bundle the service with Internet access.

What did you think the announcement would cover?