Rumors of Apple's efforts to take on Pandora with a streaming music service of its own (unofficially dubbed iRadio) have been making the rounds for quite some time now. Most recently, it was reported that Apple and various record labels were in high level negotiations and that the rumored service would launch as early as this Summer, perhaps in time for WWDC.
A reported sticking point in the negotiations of course centered on money. Whereas Pandora pays labels approximately 12 cents for every 100 songs streamed on their site, Apple wanted a deal wherein it would only pay 6 cents.
Now comes word that Apple has caved and is willing to pay the same royalty rate as Pandora. And with that out of the way, bring on the deals.
The Verge is reporting that Apple next week is expected to sign an agreement for its iRadio service with Universal Music Group, the largest of the four major record labels. What's more, the report relays that Apple remains in late stage negotiations with Warner Music.
Apple is expected to launch a web radio service similar to Pandora's later this year, provided that executives there can strike an agreement with Sony Music Entertainment as well as music publishers. Talks with Sony, which operates the third label, Sony Music Entertainment and Sony / ATV, the music publishing company jointly run with the estate of the late singer Michael Jackson, are said to not be as far along towards reaching a deal.
Note that Apple's rumored iRadio service will not be an exact replica of Pandora. Indeed, media reports have indicated that iRadio may offer additional revenue streams to record labels via subscription plans and perhaps a cut of Apple's ad revenue as well. As for particular features that will differentiate iRadio from Pandora, The Verge notes that Apple's offering will include more on-demand features. For instance, CNET reported not too long ago that iRadio may enable users listening to a particular stream to restart a song from the beginning.
As with any Apple rumors, nothing is 100% official until something is announced. That said, the number of plugged in sources covering this story all seem to pointing in the same direction, which is to say that Apple's iRadio service is definitely coming, the only question is when.