With the release of iTunes 10.5.1 Apple has finally brought iTunes Match to everyone rather then those of us who have been using it in beta. If you are not familiar with the service it isn’t the music streaming that had been long rumored but rather something far more powerful and, potentially usable. What the service does is scan your iTunes library and line up those songs that you have in it with those that are currently available on iTunes. Then, if there are songs that you have that are not available in iTunes, it will upload the remaining ones. This, in and of itself, is pretty powerful but it’s the next aspect that makes it even better. If you upload a song and it is at a relatively low bit rate when you download the song from the cloud, assuming it is available in iTunes, it will be at a much higher bit rate.
We have had ‘iTunes in the Cloud’ for a few months, which has allowed us to grab music purchases from one device directly on another without having to sync to iTunes in between. iTunes Match brings that capability to ALL of your music!
Here is the info from Apple:
If you want the benefits of iTunes in the Cloud for music you haven’t purchased from iTunes, iTunes Match is the perfect solution. It’s built right into the iTunes app on your Mac or PC and the Music app on your iOS devices. And it lets you store your entire collection, including music you’ve imported from CDs or purchased somewhere other than iTunes. For just $24.99 a year.2
Here’s how it works: iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to iCloud. Since there are more than 20 million songs in the iTunes Store, most of your music is probably already in iCloud. All you have to upload is what iTunes can’t match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream and store it on any of your devices. Even better, all the music iTunes matches plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.
Effectively this means that you can now put your entire music library into the cloud and access it from any of your Apple products. For me that’s an amazing thing considering that I have tens and tens of gigabytes of music. Now all of them are available to me regardless of where I am. And all of this cost just under $25 a year. For someone like me who has a huge iTunes library and listens to music all the time it’s a bargain.
Getting this service was considered a major victory for Apple in many ways, since it says that ‘regardless of original source, your iTunes library is now 100% legal’. Apple had to pay the record labels a huge amount to do this, but as said before many of us have huge libraries that have come from places other than iTunes such as Amazon, eMusic, our own CDs and digitized from tapes or vinyl – so the ability to not just have access to those everywhere, but also get them in a unified, pristine quality level is a giant step forward in digital music.