Surprise, surprise: Apple’s upcoming iCloud service will support the streaming of your iTunes music library stored online to your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and PC. The news comes as developers signed up to the iOS 5 beta program received, late on Monday, access to what is called iTunes Match beta - Apple’s paid cloud music service.
Apple said in June at WWDC that iTunes Match will cost $25 per year when it arrives this fall. The service scans and matches your music library (up to 25,000 songs) with the same tracks in the iTunes Music Store. It Apple can’t match the tracks on iTunes it prompt you to upload tracks to your iCloud automatically.
Once your music library is in the iCloud, you can download any of the songs on up to 10 iOS devices (including up to 5 computers). But Apple left one surprise for developers to find on Monday: iTunes match can also stream your iCloud songs to your phone or computer (InsanelyGreatMac has a video preview of the feature). The developers beta only supports streaming to iOS devices and Macs, but PC streaming will be available when the service is no longer in beta, Apple says.
The iCloud iTunes model Apple is approaching has several advantages over competing services from Google and Amazon, which received lukewarm reviews. Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player don’t match your songs to a cloud library, but only upload your MP3 files to their servers.
Apple’s service not only removes the need to upload files (except for songs unavailable in the iTunes store), but also allows you to download and stream your songs (over Wi-Fi or 3G) at 256 Kbps, even if your original files were of lower quality. The streaming option for iTunes Match makes the deal even more desirable over competing services, which were already able to stream your songs.
The iTunes Match (U.S.-only) beta service requires the latest beta of iOS 5, and a new beta of iTunes 10.5, which are available to registered Apple developers only. iOS 5 and iTunes Match are expected to publicly debut this fall, along with the introduction of a new iPhone.