|The new iTunes is designed to house a future radio service, says one analyst. (Apple)
Whispers that started over a year ago and caused Pandora's share price to nosedive are getting louder now that Apple has finally unveiled the latest version of iTunes.
Richard Greenfield, an analyst at investment and brokerage firm BTIG, issued a note on Friday stating that all of the evidence points to Apple launching what he calls "iRadio" in early 2013.
"Following yesterday's launch of iTunes 11 and a series of industry executive meetings, it is increasingly clear that Apple will launch an iRadio service in 2013. While Pandora investors may have breathed a sigh of relief when iTunes 11 did not include an iRadio service, at launch, as some had speculated, we believe Apple is laying the groundwork for such a product in the first half of 2013," he said.
Although speculation regarding Apple radio -- like everything else concerning the company -- has been rife for a long time, reports have been coming on a more and more frequent basis from better and better sources over the past few months. When Bloomberg revealed in October that Apple had been in intense negotiations with major music labels to iron out a deal, Pandora's share price fell 15%, and has it not yet recovered.
Move away from physical media
Many have been critical of the way in which Apple has refreshed its iTunes software over the past decade, highlighting that it is still too focused on users who rip physical media and transfer it to an MP3 player, rather than those who want to discover music, stream playlists and share their discoveries.
The new version of iTunes has done much to address those criticisms and though it didn't launch with a radio, Greenfield is certain that the new application is designed specifically to house the feature at a later date. "We continue to believe an iRadio product is critical for Apple to create a local advertising/commerce strategy, tying together Maps, Passbook, Siri and a new music service," he said.