People don't want to rent their music. So said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Of course, the Jobsinator also said people don't want to watch video on tiny iPod screens, and we see how far that got him...
So, while 100% unsubstantiated rumor at the moment, The Financial Times (via Apple Insider) is reporting a "tip off" that says Apple is now considering an unlimited music program similar to Nokia's "Comes With Music".
Under the terms of that plan, manufacturers would pay the recording industry a per-device fee (passed on to the consumer, 'natch) that would allow for "unlimited" music over the course of a year. When the year's up, consumers could either renew the subscription themselves or let it lapse and keep "50-60" songs they've already downloaded.
What the cost(s) will be (guesses range from $5 a month to $100 per device), what kind of DRM (digital rights management) will be in place, what quality compression (128-bit like standard iTunes or higher 256-bit like iTunes+ and Amazon MP3) will be used, and basically every and all other details remain to be announced.
It is noted that, because of it's existing cell phone billing arrangement, a more traditional monthly subscription model may also be made available exclusively for the iPhone.
The parties (Apple and the music industry) are reportedly still far apart when it comes to terms, but revenue streams makes for strange bedfellows (hi, AT&T!) so we'll have to wait for another Special Music Event (starring Paul McCartney, of course) to know for sure.
Personally, I wouldn't mind a subscription service. If the music industry had any sense (please, hold your laughter 'til the end...), they would provide radio-like free streams of low bit-rate music with an easy "buy now" button for higher quality. It would allow people to discover music again, just like the iTunes/Starbucks initiative, and give the rapidly dehydrating recording industry their own little sip of water...
What do you think? Buy or die? Rent over spend? How do you want your iPhone music?