We heard last month that Apple was planning to launch a Pandora competitor within the coming months, but according to new reports, it won't launch until sometime in the first quarter of 2013. That could mean it's coming in January, or it may not be until March, but if the rumors are true, we should be seeing an online music service from Apple before spring hits.
Bloomberg is reporting that negotiations with record labels has intensified, and that the goal is to launch the streaming music service sometime in the first quarter of the new year. The deal could be complete as soon as the middle of next month, with ad revenue sharing being the focus of discussion at the moment.
Rumored features that may arrive with the new service (and which Apple is negotiating for) include auto-generated playlists of what listeners have heard, and the ability to buy tracks as "music streams", which we're not sure what exactly that entails, but it could mean that you can purchases songs that stay in the cloud, so there wouldn't be a need to download the file.
It's still unclear as far as what the service will look like and what exactly it will do, but Apple is currently trying to make updated licensing deals with several labels to extend out from what the current iTunes business model consists of. Microsoft just revamped its Xbox Music service, which includes free, ad-supported streaming music. So, if Apple wants to compete, they'll have to have a response fairly soon.