updated 03:10 pm EST, Wed February 23, 2011
North Carolina datacenter for iTunes and MobileMe
Apple during a Q&A session at its shareholder meeting confirmed some of the role and timing of its North Carolina datacenter. The facility is targeted at supporting both iTunes and MobileMe, the company said, and is due to go live during the spring. It didn't provide official details as to what the enhanced services would involve.
The remarks indirectly confirm plans for a major overhaul to MobileMe that would make iTunes a significant component of the upgrade. At a minimum, unofficial sources have suggested it would be a media locker that would hold a user's music, photos and possibly videos, giving iPad and iPhone owners a way of reaching a full collection over the Internet. Other rumors have pointed to it possibly becoming a true "live" page with real-time social networking and possibly even livestreaming as with Qik or Ustream, although these haven't been supported by past stories.
The spring timing would coincide roughly with the unveiling of the new iPad next week and Apple's historical preference for showing new iPhones in June.
iTunes could depend more directly on the datacenter should Apple move increasingly to a streaming model and away from its emphasis on downloading once and syncing locally. Apple TV owners have complained that Apple's current dependence on a rental model for the mostly storage-free hub have made it inconvenient to watch purchased movies and TV shows, but a full streaming model would give users access to any movie they purchased on a given account, much as with Amazon Instant Video.
During the meeting, Apple was asked the about the prospect of streamed TV replacing conventional TV service and indirectly supported the claim, though it didn't confirm anything. "Yes," it said to the replacement prospect, adding that it would continue to add 'new media types' for end users.