Apple Expected To Announce Beatles Catalog Coming To iTunes

Cryptic message on Apple website leads many to speculate about the Fab Four.

After nearly a decade of waiting, Beatles fans will finally have their wish on Tuesday (November 16) at 10 a.m. ET. That's when, according to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is expected to announce that it has finally secured the rights to sell the Fab Four's music on its iTunes service.

Long the most high-profile holdouts on iTunes, the paper reported on Monday that unnamed "people familiar with the situation" confirmed the deal for the Beatles to join iTunes, which apparently was just completed last week.

Apple is notorious for its closely held announcements, often teasing them with viral campaigns before the launch of such revolutionary products as the iPhone and iPad. This time around it was no different, as the Apple homepage has been given over to the cryptic message, "Tomorrow is just another day. That you'll never forget," above four clocks set to the time of Tuesday's announcement. Though no mention is made of the Beatles in the tease, clever fanatics have also noted that the positions of the minute and hour hands on the four clocks roughly correspond with the hand positions the band's members modeled on the cover of their Help album.

The sources told the Journal that even though talks were concluded last week between Apple, the Beatles and their label, the troubled EMI Group Ltd., it was still possible Apple could change its plans at the last minute if there is a snag in the deal. Terms of the pact were not revealed, and it was unclear at press time if it would entail the rights to offer single-song downloads of Beatles tunes or album-only downloads.

The deal could be lucrative for both sides considering that in 2009, 39 years after their breakup, the Beatles were the third-highest-selling album act in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, moving 3.3 million copies.

It would also plug one of the biggest holes in the iTunes universe, which is still missing music from acts such as AC/DC and Kid Rock, after finally convincing holdouts such as Metallica and Led Zeppelin to come onboard in recent years.

If true, the deal would end decades of feuding between the pioneering computer company co-founded by Steve Jobs and the most beloved rock act in history, which dates back to the first lawsuit between them in 1978 over the Apple computer logo, an homage to the Beatles' own Apple Records image. That suit was settled in 1981 with the caveat that Apple Computer could not compete by getting into the music business. Another suit landed in 1989 when Apple Corps charged that the computer maker had violated the earlier agreement by giving its computers more powerful music-making abilities, such as controlling synthesizers. Apple Computer settled that case in 1991 by paying $29 million to the band.

But things got testy again in 2003, when Apple Corps objected to the launch of iTunes, saying the computer maker violated the terms of 1991 agreement. But, in a rare victory, a court sided with Apple in 2006 in dismissing the band's claims, saying the Apple logo on the iTunes store didn't have anything to do with the music being sold, but was simply an icon for the store itself.

Then again, considering how many times the Beatles-to-iTunes rumor has been sparked, this could all be much ado about nothing, as some tech blogs have speculated that the real announcement will be about a "cloud" service that will allow you to stream your iTunes library to any Internet-connected device.