As far back as I can remember, iTunes has always given users access to web radio stations. It comes pre-installed with hundreds of them, from practically every genre, from all around the world.

I’ve never really used the feature, and frankly I’m surprised that it hasn’t been eliminated yet. But according to BTIG Research, its presence in iTunes 11 could be the sign of something bigger…

CNET points to a new blog post on BTIG’s website:

“BTIG Research today wrote a blog post predicting Apple launches a streaming-music service at some point in 2013. The firm, which says that it came to the conclusion after holding interviews with industry executives, said Apple’s iTunes 11 launch yesterday is only further proof the service is coming.

BTIG Research pointed to the addition of a “Radio” option in the horizontal bar in iTunes 11, saying that while the current offering of stations “is unappealing to most consumers today, we believe the radio service can easily be updated…”

Obviously, they’re referring to the Pandora-like internet radio service that Apple is rumored to be working on. The story was first scooped by the WSJ back in September, and it has since been echoed by a number of reports.

The word is that Apple is in upper-level talks with record labels right now, in an effort to acquire the appropriate licenses. And the iAd-supported service could be ready to launch as early as March of next year.

While I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Apple come out with its own streaming internet radio platform, I doubt that the current iTunes Radio feature is related. That just seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

What do you think?