apple-logo-fontIt’s looking like Apple will unveil its long-rumoured iRadio personal radio service tonight, with reports on Friday evening that the company has finally struck licensing deals with label Sony Music and publisher Sony/ATV

That would giving it a full set of major labels, and the backing of the most-hardball negotiator (for iRadio) among the major publishers.

Both All Things Digital and Billboard are citing their sources as saying the deals have been done, with the latter speculating on whether Universal Music’s publishing arm is already on board, or will join soon.

Watch Billboard’s claim that publishers are privately calling their deal to get 10% of iRadio revenues “an introductory rate, meaning that after the iRadio service establishes itself, they expect that rate to increase”, while also suggesting that Pandora will need to match this rate in its direct negotiations with publishers in the future.

Tech blogs have been enjoying calling iRadio a potential Pandora-killer on the grounds that it may suck users and advertisers away from that service, but the impact on its licensing negotiations could be just as destructive.

Expect an iRadio announcement tonight, then, with some known unknowns still to be revealed: launch territories, whether it will be purely ad-supported or not, and whether it’ll even be called iRadio.

But tonight’s WWDC event keynote is about more than one new service. Apple will be taking the wrappers off the next version of its iPhone, iPad and iPod touch software: iOS 7.

After months of criticism over Android’s much-larger smartphone market share, Apple is in the unaccustomed position (in recent years, at least) of being on the defensive.

The prevailing view in the technology media seems to be ‘iOS is stale, Apple needs to make it more complicated and widgety like Android, because me and my tech-savvy friends are bored of rows of icons on a homescreen’.

It’s a bit blinkered: there’s merit in Apple needing to work harder to stem a drain of power-users to Android, but it’s also true that iOS remains the only smartphone and tablet software that’s accessible to three year-olds and 73 year-olds alike, at a time when smart-device usage is going more mainstream than ever.

Tonight’s iOS 7 reveal will tell us how Apple plans to walk this line – and by extension, how powerful a platform iOS will remain for all music services, not just Apple’s own.