Does the Beatles' long, winding road end at iTunes?

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We’re still trying to wrap our brains around the repercussions of Monday’s announcement from EMI that it’s going to drop digital-rights management restrictions from its music offerings in May. We’ve looked it at from the perspective of consumers, other record labels, and even iTunes competitors. Some of my Macworld colleagues have even weighed in with analysis of their own.

But none of that answers the question that’s on a lot of people’s minds: Just when will the Beatles be available on iTunes?

“I want to know that too,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during Monday’s EMI press event.

Here’s the background: Apple and Apple Corps, the Beatles’ company, announced back in February that they settled their long-standing differences that had culminated in a 2003 lawsuit that Apple—the computer maker, not the rock group company— ultimately won. It was thought that the February announcement would clear the way for the Beatles to land on iTunes—and it was thought that such a deal might be announced Monday since EMI is the Beatles’ record label.

But it didn’t happen. Here’s how Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group, tackled the question when pressed by reporters: “We are working on it and we hope it's soon.”

Rather vague time frame, that— soon . It’s the same answer I give my wife whenever she asks how long before I’m done playing Diamond Mind Baseball with the help of Parallels Desktop on my MacBook Pro. Hopefully, Nicoli’s “soon” is sooner than that soon.

So I’ll open the question to the floor: How soon is soon? When do you think we’ll see a DRM-free Fab Four—or any Fab Four for that matter—on iTunes?

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