Over a decade ago, the late Steve Jobs pulled one of his trademark reality-distorting maneuvers, browbeating music label executives into selling songs on Apple Inc.'s nascent iTunes digital store for a mere 99 cents apiece.

Now it is Apple that is being forced into a deal that is far from a sure-fire winner.

The iPod and iPhone maker is expected to announce as early as this week a $3.2 billion agreement to buy Beats Electronics, the music streaming service and headphone maker founded by legendary music producer Jimmy Iovine and rapper Dr. Dre.