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Yoko Ono says it’s ‘yes’ to iTunes Beatle catalog

Yoko Ono's apparent slip of the tongue — telling Britain's Sky News network that the entire Beatles' music catalog will be made available on Apple's iTunes — was news. Then it wasn't.
/ Source: news services

Yoko Ono's apparent slip of the tongue — telling Britain's Sky News channel that the entire Beatles' music catalog will be made available on Apple's iTunes — was news. Then it wasn't. It was gone, removed from the British TV's Web site Tuesday faster than you could type "www."

If true — and right now it is an "if" — it would mean that Apple, due to make some iPod-related announcements Wednesday — might finally have scored the right to sell the Fab Four's music on iTunes.

A digitally remastered collection of the Beatles' oeuvre is due out on CDs also on Wednesday, as is an all-Beatles edition of the popular play-along video game "Rock Band." Beatlemania-infected Apple fans also point to the recurrence of the number nine in band lore and the date — 09/09/09 — of Apple's announcement. 

But the use of a Rolling Stones song line in the invitation quieted most proponents of this scenario. It might just be standard Apple misdirection, but a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press there's no Beatles-Apple deal.

The band’s record label, EMI, also denies the deal.

“Conversations between Apple and EMI are ongoing and we look forward to the day when we can make the music available digitally. But it’s not tomorrow,” Ernesto Schmitt, EMI’s global catalog president, told the Financial Times.

"We'll believe it when we see it but late comments by John Lennon's heiress seems to indicate that the whole Beatles back catalog will be showing up on iTunes ... perhaps at tomorrow's event," noted "A Sky News employee has told us they were told to cut the story out immediately and not to comment. Directive came 'from the very top.' "

Whether that directive was made because what Ono, Lennon's widow and an artist, said was inaccurate or because it jumped Apple's gun is not known.

Secrecy reigns
Apple, as usual, has said almost nothing about the new products it plans to unveil at an invitation-only affair Wednesday in San Francisco. Playing their part, bloggers and Apple fans have filled the vacuum with "leaks," rumors and wish-list items that, while often far-fetched, can't completely be ignored. Sometimes, just sometimes, a bit of truth shines through.

In recent years, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has used its September event to unveil new iPods, which have grown smaller, sleeker and more powerful with each new generation.

This year's event is along the same lines, if Apple's e-mail to reporters is any indication.

The invitation looks like an iTunes gift card and features one of Apple's iconic, iPod-toting silhouettes and the words, "It's only rock and roll, but we like it," a reference to a 1970s Rolling Stones song.

That still left room for creative speculation. Detail-starved bloggers took a close look at the image and noted that the headphones jack into the large-ish iPod at the bottom — making it an iPod Touch, not an iPod classic. The observation has added weight to one rumor that Apple could discontinue the classic, the only model left to use a hard drive instead of flash memory.

Of course, other rumors postulate an even bigger hard drive on an updated iPod classic, which already boasts a 120-gigabyte hard drive, far beefier than any other iPod. Still more speculation, this time based on what appear to be photos of new iPod cases, call for built-in digital cameras on Touch and Nano models.

Apple watchers are also looking out for the ninth incarnation of iTunes, the media management software that helps people keep track of their music, videos, podcasts and data and send it to iPods and iPhones.

"Leaked" screen shots of unknown origin and varying quality have cropped up online that indicate iTunes might be melded into social networking sites including Facebook and music-enthusiast network According to the buzz, iTunes 9 may also get better at helping people organize their iPhone and iPod Touch applications, and support Blu-Ray disc playback.

One of the more solid predictions is that Apple will be packaging digital albums with videos, liner notes and album art that could be viewed in iTunes — to help revive consumers' interest in buying more than just one or two tracks. The Associated Press and other media reported in July that Apple and the four major recording labels were working on launching this package in the fall.

Analysts with contacts in Apple's supply chain have predicted all year that the company will come out with at least one "tablet"-style device resembling a giant iPod Touch, based on Apple's purchases of screens that are bigger than an iPod but smaller than a MacBook. Blogs and message boards lit up when it seemed Apple was finally ready to show it off. But analysts including Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster and Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros. both see a 2010 release as more likely.

One more thing: CEO Steve Jobs hasn't presided over one of these pep-rally-style product launches since Apple gave its laptop line a light makeover last October. His lieutenants, Tim Cook and Phil Schiller, Apple's COO and top marketing executive, have been holding their own. But now that Jobs is back from his nearly six-month medical leave, fans are still holding their breath for an appearance from the maestro.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.