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Apple finally ready for iTunes subscriptions?

Three separate reports came out this afternoon--with very similar details--that Apple is preparing to introduce a music subscription service on iTunes.

The iTunes Store might soon have a yearly subscription option for $129 a year. Apple

Three Mac rumors sites have received anonymous tips that Apple is getting ready to introduce a subscription iTunes service in September.

We were already pretty sure that September would bring new iPods, but Apple might have something more ambitious up its sleeve. MacRumors, MacDailyNews, and The Unofficial Apple Weblog are all saying a tipster spilled the beans about a $129-a-year iTunes service that would piggyback on Apple's MobileMe service.

The reports are all eerily similar, suggesting that accurate or not, all the sites heard from the same source. Under the new service, Apple would offer unlimited access to half of its iTunes Store--as of an October launch--for $129 a year, or $179 for an iTunes/MobileMe combo deal, in the U.S. only. If you're already a MobileMe subscriber, you'll only have to fork over $99.99 for the subscription service, perhaps as a mea culpa for this summer's disastrous MobileMe launch.

Rumors of an iTunes subscription service are not new; I found reports dating back to 2005 that Apple was getting ready to introduce such a thing. CEO Steve Jobs has historically pooh-poohed the idea of rental music--and such services haven't exactly taken the world by storm--but Jobs has also said he wasn't crazy about video-playing iPods and Apple-designed mobile phones, either.

This service introduction would also reportedly include an expanded MobileMe service that would let you access "the cloud" (Apple calls it iDisk) from your iPhone or iPod Touch.

While we're on this track, let me be the first to revive--based on absolutely nothing--the Beatles on iTunes rumors for September. It has to happen one of these days.