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WSJ: Apple Negotiating with Hollywood Studios Over Movie Streaming

According to an article published by The Wall Street Journal last night, Apple is reportedly in talks with Hollywood studios to add streaming of movies to the iTunes Store.

Apple Inc. is negotiating with Hollywood studios for deals that would let people who buy movies from the iTunes Store watch streaming versions of those movies on Apple devices such as iPads or iPhones without manually transferring them, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Los Angeles Times has a similar report:

Representatives of the iPhone and iPad maker have been meeting with studios to finalize deals that would allow consumers to buy movies through iTunes and access them on any Apple device, according to knowledgeable people who requested anonymity because the discussions are private. The service is expected to launch in late 2011 or early 2012.

With the just-launched iCloud platform for media and data syncing, there are a few differences to consider when covering the subject of “streaming” and online storage. Whereas the WSJ mentions “streaming versions” of movies, the LA Times (at least initially) simply refers to access on any device. Considering the current iCloud model, the rumor seems to fall in line with the LA Times’ report – iTunes in the Cloud, a feature of iCloud for iTunes Store content, lets users buy once, re-download at any time, and store previously purchased items in the cloud. With iTunes in the Cloud there’s no “streaming version” of a song or TV show, as iCloud is effectively enabling users to access items on any device from a unified interface (you can read more in our iCloud overview). However, in the same article, the LA Times also states:

Under the plan Apple is proposing, users could stream movies they buy via iTunes on any device the company makes, such as the Apple TV, iPhones and iPads, as well as on PCs.

You may remember that ahead of iCloud’s announcement in June, a number of reports suggested Apple was working on a music streaming service – such service didn’t materialize at WWDC as Apple unveiled iTunes Match, a music service that scans & match music, but doesn’t allow for streaming in a way companies like Rdio or Spotify do. iTunes Match matches songs with Apple’s servers and uploads the rest to a cloud locker, enabling users to download their music on any device.

Technically, the difference between streaming and access shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whereas devices like the iPhone and iPad can store downloads in their local storage after they’ve pulled media from iCloud, the Apple TV, which works with iCloud but has no local storage, streams everything from Apple’s iTunes Store, keeping small portions of data in a local cache.

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the technical difference between streaming and download. Movies in iCloud have been rumored since May, and Apple went ahead and launched a service with online storage for apps, music, TV shows and documents but no movies. It’s unclear how movies will be stored in iCloud when a deal between Hollywood and Apple eventually happens, but when it does, the technical aspect of the system shouldn’t matter to the end user.

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