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iCloud Will Scan iTunes Libraries, “Mirror” Songs Online

In a post detailing the current state of cloud-based music services from Google and Amazon, Businessweek relays some information on Apple’s upcoming iCloud service, rumored to include streaming of iTunes collections to a variety of devices and computers and said to be formally introduced at the WWDC keynote on June 6. Similarly to a rumor posted a few months ago that indicated Apple was working on a solution to let users backup & upload their collections to the cloud directly from the desktop, Businessweek says “three people briefed on the talks” (between Apple and music labels) have suggested Apple will provide a scanning tool that quickly mirrors songs to iCloud’s servers, also offering a way to replace those songs with better-quality versions if quality is not deemed “good enough.”

Armed with licenses from the music labels and publishers, Apple will be able to scan customers’ digital music libraries in iTunes and quickly mirror their collections on its own servers, say three people briefed on the talks. If the sound quality of a particular song on a user’s hard drive isn’t good enough, Apple will be able to replace it with a higher-quality version. Users of the service will then be able to stream, whenever they want, their songs and albums directly to PCs, iPhones, iPads, and perhaps one day even cars.

Businessweek also briefly mentions Apple could use a subscription-based model to give users access to these functionalities and stream songs they purchased or uploaded. Whilst the general consensus among bloggers seems to be that Apple will either allow users to upload entire music collections or listen to songs they don’t own like Spotify enables subscribers to access the company’s online database with a subscription, the technical details on Apple’s iCloud service are still unclear. A patent design suggested Apple could make users sync small bits of music locally and fetch the rest online to avoid buffering between songs; others claimed it will be a simple system revolving around uploads and streaming like Amazon’s Cloud Player; several reports also pointed at Apple building a new service that combines subscriptions, partial uploads and scanning tools to reduce upload times on a user’s end. Businessweek seems to believe the latter option, with a subscription-based payment and a desktop utility that scans iTunes and somehow mirrors everything quickly to the cloud.

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