Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL) may be getting into the online music subscription business. Rumors began circulating earlier in the week that the Mac Daddy will launch a pay-for-play service for its computers and iPod machines.

The company's not 'fessing up yet, but the offering appears to make sense, at least from the record companies' standpoint.

The existing major online music subscription services (MusicNet, Rhapsody, and Pressplay) don't offer downloads for Macintosh products. Given this, iPod customers have to look elsewhere for Ja Rule and Ashanti downloads -- typically to free (and illegal) services such as KaZaA. Some have even accused Apple of promoting piracy because of its "rip, mix, burn" advertising slogan, highlighting the ease with which Mac products can copy and record songs to CDs.

The move toward a subscription model, then, would be a big shift for Apple and sweet music for record companies, which would love to try to tap into those iPod devotees. But should the service launch, it'll be a symbolic victory more than anything else.

That's because less than 3% of computers sold worldwide are Macs. The majority of those downloading and burning are using other operating systems. Even if Apple can somehow convince all Mac and iPod users to pay for online music (and that alone is highly debatable), record companies will still be left with mostly freeloaders.