Will Apple shift iTunes to the cloud?

Rejoice music fans, the days of fighting against your iTunes library could soon be over. Apple is in talks to acquire audio streaming company Lala in

Lala is a service (currently US-only) with a nine million-track audio database in the cloud. Users of Google's One Box music search can listen to any track free once, then pay 10-cent (6p) for unlimited streaming access. As Lala co-founder Bill Nguyen told me a few weeks ago: "This is a model that everyone loves - the iTunes model of buy as you need."

Even more tempting for Apple, though, could be Lala's licenses allowing it to offer free online Music Lockers. You let Lala trawl through your iTunes (or Windows Media) library to create a virtual library in its servers. You can then stream any of those tunes from Lala from free - and at higher qualities than those early 64kbps MP3s you never got round to re-ripping.

Just imagine: a music library that you don't have to back up (you can even delete the original files if you want); ratings that won't disappear next time your reinstall iTunes; no more duplicate, DRM-limited or corrupt tunes; and decent quality streams (128kbps, going to 192kpbs and possibly higher). However much Lala is asking, Apple could be getting a bargain.