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is Apple prepping an iTunes music streaming service to rival Spotify?

iTunes Radio? Apple's randomised streaming service is just the beginning, so the rumours say.

According to Billboard, speaking to unnamed sources, Apple is allegedly mulling the idea of launching its own music subscription service – a Spotify / Radio / Beats competitor that would theoretically allow users to pull up any music hosted in the iTunes Store for a competitive, monthly rate.

That's quite a bit different than Apple's current offering, iTunes Radio, which is an ad-supported streaming service that gives users little control over the songs they're interested in hearing. It's currently unclear whether iTunesify – for lack of a better name – would exist as a standalone app or be integrated directly into iTunes or Apple's Music app itself. Talks, as you might expect, are allegedly in the very early stages.

Still, the figures are pretty clear that Apple's move into streaming wouldn't necessarily be a bad one for the company — as much as its late co-founder, Steve Jobs, disliked the concept.

Sales of digital albums in the US are reportedly down 13 per cent right now, says a report from Neilsen SoundScan. In contrast, streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and the like coughed up $1.4 billion (£8.4 million) in revenues last year – an increase of 39 per cent from 2012's figures — claims a report by the Recording Industry Association of America. Additionally, a second report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry suggests that streaming music revenue jumped 51 per cent worldwide last year, now 28 million users strong — representing an increase of 8 million users since 2012 and 20 million users since 2010.

"Even accounting for the difficult situation in Japan, the global recording industry is in a positive phase of its development," said IFPI CEO Frances Moore in a statement. "Revenues in most major markets have returned to growth. Streaming and subscription services are thriving. Consumers have a wider choice than ever before between different models and services. And digital music is moving into a clearly identifiable new phase as record companies, having licensed services across the world, now start to tap the enormous potential of emerging markets."

A move into music streaming isn't the only possible music-themed change on tap over at Apple, however. The company is also reportedly considering moving iTunes Radio to its own standalone app and, a slightly more eye-opening change, possibly creating an iTunes app for Android devices. While Steve Jobs is notorious for saying that he didn't "want to make Android users happy" by opening up iTunes on that platform, CEO Tim Cook appears much more open to the idea.

"We have no religious issue with doing that. If we thought it made sense for us to do that, we would do that," Cook said last year, responding to a question about whether Apple would consider making apps for Android.