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Apple Sings Cloud Tunes

"If [the EMC deal proves to be] the case, it would seem another signal of Apple's intent to deliver some kind of cloud based service, and iTunes is the logical platform," said Charles King, president of research firm Pund-IT.

It was also reported last week that Microsoft's (MSFT) recently-departed data center guru Kevin Timmons could end up at Apple. "[This] looks like another piece falling into place," said Pund-IT's King.

Microsoft confirmed with TheStreet that Timmons is no longer working at the software giant, noting that he decided to pursue other, unspecified "career opportunities."

There have already been signs that Apple is planning a cloud onslaught, reportedly spending $1 billion to build a vast new data center in Maiden, North Carolina.

Touting cloud-based consumer services is nothing new. Amazon's self-hyped (AMZN) Cloud Drive lets customers store music and play it on their smartphones or computers. The Web giant also debuted two Cloud Players last month, an attempt to challenge iTunes.

Barclays Capital's Reitzes, however, thinks that Apple is prepping a much more sophisticated cloud offering, encompassing its MobileMe service for synchronizing different devices.

"We believe the launch of Apple's service is much more complex than Amazon's given its millions of users with years worth of files," he wrote. "We look for Apple to use its cloud-based iTunes/MobileMe service to further lock in customers to its ecosystem by making content available seamlessly on all of its devices -- including iPhones, iPads and Macs."

Reitzes added that cloud-based content also lets Apple (and other cloud bulls) offer cheaper versions of its devices with less on-board memory. "[This] would help the company get more gadgets into the hands of consumers," he explained.

Apple has already dispensed with hard disk drive storage on its new MacBook Air in favor of Flash and its Internet Services, a move that seems tied to its broader cloud plans.

Apple's rumored storage purchase could also spell good news for EMC, which reports its first-quarter results before market open Wednesday.

"If this all turns out to be true, the news would be a significant boost for EMC," Pund-IT's King told TheStreet. "Apple is a marquee customer by virtually any measure -- the company's singular focus on innovation would represent a huge vote of confidence for [EMC's] Isilon as a leading cloud storage platform."

Kaushik Roy, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan, agrees. "In the past there have been concerns about EMC where investors have questioned that if data or information storage is moving from the corporate datacenter to the cloud then it could be negative," he said in an email to TheStreet. "But, as you can see now, even if data or information storage moves to the cloud, it benefits storage systems vendors such as EMC or NetApp (NTAP)."

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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