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Apple prepping cloud-based movie streaming, report says

The company is in talks with Hollywood studios to allow customers who buy films to stream them to the iPhone, iPad, and computers.

Apple is in talks with Hollywood studios to deliver movie streaming to the company's line of products, as well as PCs, according to a new report.

If Apple can ink deals with studios, the company will allow customers to buy films on iTunes and then stream those films to any iOS-based device, computers, and the Apple TV, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday, citing sources with knowledge of the talks. If all goes well, Apple hopes to launch the service at the end of this year or early next year.

Although the LA Times didn't cite iCloud specifically, the publication said that Apple plans to "put movies in the cloud," presumably to make it easier to share content across the many devices. Considering that, it's quite possible that Apple's iCloud could be the backbone for the service.

Apple launched iCloud yesterday. The free service allows users to sync music, iBooks, and documents across computers and iOS-based devices, but movies are conspicuously missing. That said, there has been rampant speculation among industry observers and analysts that the next logical step for iCloud is movie support.

"Apple's iCloud service for media storage makes it simpler to own multiple Apple devices and share content among them," Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a note to investors in June. "At first the only media iCloud will store is music and pictures, but we believe Apple may add movies and TV shows purchased or rented in iTunes to the iCloud service, which could be viewed on a TV."

Munster's report came on the heels of sources telling CNET in May that Apple was in talks with Hollywood studios to enable the iPhone maker to store customers' films on company servers, so it could easily distribute them to their many devices.

Although studios might have balked at the idea at the time, it appears they're far more likely to accept a deal now. Earlier this week, several of the top Hollywood studios, including Warner Bros. and Universal, launched UltraViolet, a cloud-based film distribution service. The service allows customers who own Blu-ray or DVD versions of certain films to have access to a digital copy that can be streamed to a host of smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Apple, however, has not signed on to participate with Ultraviolet.

UltraViolet is a significant step for the entertainment industry, considering how loath it has been over the years to jump on the changing times. But whether those companies will want to see Apple's offering potentially compete against their own remains to be seen.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment on the LA Times report.