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Posts tagged with "iTunes Match"

Apple Launches iTunes Match

Apple today released iTunes 10.5.1, a software update that enables iTunes Match, a new music service integrated with iTunes in the Cloud that allows customers to “scan & match” their local music libraries, and store their songs and albums in Apple’s cloud. iTunes Match is currently available to U.S. customers only, and it costs $24.99 per year via iTunes subscription; iOS 5.0.1 and iTunes 10.5.1 are required to use iTunes Match.

Unlike other cloud music services, iTunes Match uses a scan technology that enables Apple to match songs in a user’s library with the ones the company already has on the iTunes Store, whilst the ones that aren’t recognized in the scanning process are directly uploaded to Apple’s servers. Because the iTunes Store offers more than 20 million songs, Apple believes most user libraries will be matched in seconds with the catalogue Apple already has, thus avoiding uploading an entire music library, which could take weeks on an average Internet connection. Furthermore, while the songs that aren’t matched with Apple’s iTunes Store are uploaded “as they are” (the exact file that a user has on a computer), matched songs are automatically upgraded to 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality, even if the original copy was of lower quality.

iTunes Match isn’t a streaming service like Spotify and Rdio in that it requires users to go through a “scan & match” process before they can start using the service. It is, however, deeply integrated with OS X and iOS 5: on the desktop, iTunes can download and play songs from iTunes Match, and the native Music app on iOS device is capable of downloading any song or album stored in your iCloud account, provided you’ve enabled iTunes Match in the Settings. iTunes Match doesn’t come with a huge catalogue of artists and genres available for streaming right away, but it allows users to scan & match their libraries, and download their songs (matched or not) at any time, on any device, with deep system integration.

At the moment of writing this, iTunes 10.5.1 includes iTunes Match but the service is still mentioned as “beta” within iTunes:

We will have a complete overview of iTunes Match later today on MacStories. iTunes 10.5.1 is available now on Apple’s website or through Software Update.


Apple Releases iTunes 10.5.1 with iTunes Match

Apple has just released version 10.5.1 of iTunes, which has been in testing with developers for some weeks to test the new iTunes Match music service. iTunes 10.5.1 is available now on Apple’s website and Software Update. It’s still unclear whether iTunes Match will open to the public today, and we’ll update this story as soon as we know more.

Update: It appears iTunes Match is indeed launching today as confirmed by Apple on the iTunes webpage.

Screenshots from the iTunes 10.5.1 installer and iTunes 10.5.1, still showing iTunes Match as “beta”. More information about iTunes Match available here.


iCloud Libraries To Be Wiped Tomorrow As Apple “Prepares” For iTunes Match Launch

In an email sent to developers a few minutes ago, Apple has announced that iCloud music libraries will be wiped tomorrow, November 12th, at 10 AM PST. Since Apple began testing iTunes Match in August, iCloud libraries have been wiped periodically as part of Apple’s testing process to build and optimize the service. Currently, iTunes Match is being tested by registered developers in the United States, and it requires iTunes 10.5.1 beta.

As we prepare for the launch of iTunes Match, we will be deleting all current iCloud libraries on Saturday, November 12th at 10 AM PST.

Please turn off iTunes Match on all of your computers and iOS devices. On your computer, choose Store > Turn off iTunes Match. On your iOS device, tap Settings > Music, then turn off iTunes Match. On your Apple TV, please choose Music > Turn off iTunes Match.

The songs on your computer should not be affected. As always, please backup regularly and do not delete the music you add to iCloud from your computer.

iTunes Match is Apple’s upcoming scan & match service for music built into iTunes and iCloud. iTunes Match will scan a user’s music library, find songs that match with Apple’s iTunes Store, and upload results that haven’t matched correctly. Songs stored in iCloud can be downloaded on any device, at any time, as long as you’re subscribed to iTunes Match, which costs $24.99 per year. At the “Let’s talk iPhone” media event in October Apple said iTunes Match would launch by the end of the month, but as the company missed its own deadline many started wondering whether additional beta time was required to finalize iTunes Match. On November 3rd, Apple seeded to developers a new beta of iTunes 10.5.1 for additional iTunes Match testing.


Apple Seeds New iTunes 10.5.1 Beta with iTunes Match To Developers

iTunes Match, Apple’s upcoming cloud music service based on “scan and match” technology, was scheduled to launch by the end October. As October went by and Apple missed its pre-announced release date – which Apple’s Eddy Cue announced at the “Let’s talk iPhone” media event on October 4th – it appears the company is now requiring additional testing for iTunes Match, which is available in a new version of iTunes not released to the public yet, iTunes 10.5.1.

A new beta of iTunes 10.5.1 has been seeded to developers a few minutes ago, including the iTunes Match functionality that Apple has been testing since August. From the release notes of this beta, it appears iTunes Match is now also available on Apple TV for testing. iTunes 10.5.1 beta 2 comes with a number of bug fixes and improvements, and Apple notes iCloud music libraries will be deleted at the end of this beta.

iTunes Match is currently in beta for developers and US-only. Rumors in the past weeks suggested another reason for the delay of iTunes Match could be Apple trying to get international rights to launch iTunes Match in additional countries besides the US – a rumor seemingly confirmed by Apple’s Eddy Cue himself, who stated iTunes Match would become available in Canada shortly after the US launch. Of course Apple may have added more countries to the launch list since September, although the company’s website still reports iTunes Match as a US-only service.

iTunes Match will work on iTunes for Macs and PCs, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV.


Apple To Announce International iTunes Match on Tuesday?

According to a report by Greg Sandoval at CNET, Apple may announce international support for its iCloud music service at the media event scheduled for next week. Apple is said to be in negotiations with record companies and music publishers to gain worldwide music rights for iCloud, although CNET reports nothing has been signed yet, but if negotiations wrap up in time there could be an announcement on Tuesday.

Whilst CNET mentions “access to iCloud”, iCloud music rights most likely refer to the specific iTunes Match service; however, another music-related feature of iCloud – iTunes in the Cloud – is also being tested in the US-only at the moment, as it can be seen on Apple’s international iCloud pages. It’s not clear whether CNET is referring to iTunes Match, iTunes in the Cloud, or both – thus bringing full iCloud access for music worldwide.

Managers at iTunes are trying to lock down worldwide cloud-music rights, CNET has learned.

[…]

Some of the countries that could receive access to iCloud include Germany, France and the United Kingdom, the sources said.

iTunes Match, originally previewed at the WWDC in June, is set to publicly launch this Fall in the United States. Apple hasn’t detailed a public plan for an international rollout of the service, which is currently in beta and requires a US iTunes account with credit card on file. The service costs $24.99 per year for 25,000 songs, but iTunes purchases won’t count against this limit. iTunes Match was previously rumored to be coming to the UK in 2012, however CNET has a solid track record in reporting Apple’s negotiations with the music labels and publishers, correctly predicting ahead of WWDC that Apple would announce a new cloud-based music service.


Apple’s Bold Move: iTunes Match and Streaming

With the launch of the first iTunes Match beta for developers last night, Apple unveiled the last piece of the iCloud puzzle that was originally previewed at the WWDC in June, when Steve Jobs announced that iTunes Match would be available this Fall at $24.99 per year for 25,000 songs, allowing customers to download songs stored in their iCloud accounts. Because iTunes Match scans a user’s iTunes library before uploading files, songs compatible with Apple’s iTunes Store catalogue are automatically upgraded to 256 Kbps (even if the original copy was of lower quality) and “matched” with the copy on the server, whilst the ones not found on Apple’s servers are manually uploaded to iCloud. This happens for two reasons: first, Apple cut deals with several music labels and publishers to enable this “scan & match” technology that compares songs on a computer versus the higher quality copy on the servers, and doesn’t upload the original file; second, Apple wanted to eliminate the need of having to wait days for large uploads to finish – something that has affected “cloud locker” services from Google, Amazon, and many others.

The iTunes Match that was announced back in June, however, and promoted on Apple’s website up until today, made no specific mention of “streaming” songs matched/uploaded to iCloud; the way Apple originally explained it, Match was a clever way to fill an iCloud account with songs and albums to later download on iOS devices or a Mac. For as much as the technology behind it seemed intriguing, many were disappointed to find out that Apple couldn’t find a way around streaming songs without having to download the full copy first. Other services like Rdio and Spotify allow users to stream songs they don’t own by hitting “play” and waiting a few seconds for the stream to start (depending on the Internet connection’s speed). iTunes Match is actually a service for songs users own and decide to store in iCloud at $24.99 per year, so many assumed streaming required a different kind of licensing deal that Apple couldn’t make in time for WWDC.

Last night, as developers started subscribing to the first beta of iTunes Match, it turned out that, even in this first version, Apple is allowing for both downloading and streaming of songs, both on the Mac and iOS devices. The interface makes it easy to match and listen: once a music collection is built in iCloud (e.g. iTunes has scanned, matched, and uploaded songs to your account), music will be available on the Mac in iTunes’ Music tab, and on iOS 5 in the new Music app. Once iTunes Match is enabled on iOS it replaces the local music library, and you can tell the difference by a small iCloud icon next to each song.

Whereas Apple’s announcement at WWDC implied users would have to push a button to download songs, and build a music library off a master collection in the cloud, this first beta actually delivers more: users can still hit the button and download songs locally, but they can also tap on songs and start streaming them without a download.

The process is detailed in two videos posted by Insanely Great Mac. Streaming can occur both on the desktop and iOS, and it doesn’t look any different from a local iTunes library except for the aforementioned iCloud library. With this first beta, Apple isn’t accepting iTunes LPs and Extras, some file types aren’t supported and, for testing purposes, Apple will periodically delete developers’ iCloud music libraries to increase iTunes’ performances and reliability.

Streaming is a big deal for Apple, and not just because it increases iTunes’ functionalities to avoid manual downloads and waiting times. With iTunes Match streaming, Apple could directly compete with services like Spotify (recently landed in the U.S.) and Rdio, which let users stream songs over WiFi and 3G and even cache them for offline access. However, as of this beta, Apple’s iTunes Match comes with a unique spin on streaming: it doesn’t need downloads, and it’s based on music libraries made from songs users own. With the combination of local copies (the library), scan & match, iCloud, downloads and streaming, Apple could build a music service like no other in that it’s a combination of “owning your music”, and paying a yearly fee to get online access to it. Spotify is often criticized for being a streaming service that doesn’t let you “own” your library; most recently, the company added the possibility of importing local files and playing them in Spotify, but it’s not the same of being able to take local files and mirror them to the cloud. Reports citing streaming with “iTunes in the cloud” from May are now starting to make more sense, and let’s not forget Apple has patented a technology to make streaming effortless and faster by syncing small bits of data locally.

Still, many questions are left unanswered with this week’s iTunes Match beta. Was iTunes Match supposed to get only song downloads, with the current streaming implementation being just a glitch? Or are we in for a streaming surprise come Apple’s next keynote? Moreover, will Apple further tweak iTunes and iOS 5 to put the focus on streaming, allowing for advanced iCloud-based playlist creation? And how will music labels react to the news that iTunes Match is capable of streaming, too? Perhaps this is already part of Apple’s grand iCloud plan, and music labels knew all along that iTunes Match would stream songs, as Businessweek suggested in May. Or, streaming came unexpected to them as it did to everyone else in this first beta. But more importantly, will iTunes Match be available outside the U.S. once iOS 5 and iCloud are publicly released? Early signs pointed to “no”, with sources claiming the UK wouldn’t see iTunes Match until 2012. Currently, iTunes Match is a developer-only beta (closed at the moment with more openings “over the next days”) that requires a U.S. credit card (not just regular iTunes credit – e.g. promo codes and gift cards) for automatic billing. It’s unclear whether or not Apple will open the final version of iTunes Match to any kind of U.S. iTunes account, or if they’ll keep it exclusive for U.S. iTunes customers with a credit card on file.

As usual with betas, things can change before the final release. There’s a fragmented market out there, and Apple has a chance to disrupt it with iCloud and iOS 5. As it stands now, iTunes Match looks like Apple’s boldest move in the online music space since 2003.

Update: AllThingsD now weighs in writing that, according to an Apple spokesperson, iTunes Match still isn’t streaming. What looks like a stream is actually a simultaneous listen and download, although Apple isn’t providing additional details on the technology behind iTunes Match. AllThingsD speculates that Apple may be using some sort of caching mechanism for when users don’t “download” songs from iCloud, though that’s just an “educated guess”. From the videos posted this morning, indeed it looked like an iPhone was capable of streaming songs off iCloud.

AllThingsD also reports that Apple has the licensing rights to streaming, but they’re not implementing it due to a design choice – Apple apparently doesn’t believe mobile networks are advanced enough to allow for streaming of large music libraries. Check out the full report here.

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Apple Releases New iTunes Beta with iTunes Match

Apple just seeded a new version of iTunes 10.5 to developers, enabling the iTunes Match functionality that will allow users to upload songs to Apple’s iCloud directly from their iTunes libraries this Fall. Unlike other “cloud locker” services from Google and Amazon, Apple’s iTunes Match uses a “scan & match” technology that will try to match songs from a user’s library to the ones found on Apple’s iTunes Store servers, thus avoiding to upload a library in its entirety. The iTunes Match beta is currently available to developers in the United States, and as Apple explains in the release notes the music libraries added during this beta period may be subject to deletion, thus leading to additional re-scans and uploads.

As Apple also mentions in the release notes, iTunes Match beta subscribers “will receive the beta period and an additional 3 months of service with their 12 month subscription”, which as previously announced it’s set at $24.99 per year for 25,000 songs. iTunes LP and Extras are currently unsupported by Match, which is available as a subscription from iTunes’ new interface. From Apple’s official iTunes Match webpage:

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 your iCloud library for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 18 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. And all the music iTunes matches plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.

The first beta of iTunes Match comes with a few known issues such as impossibility to add music to iCloud from more than one computer at a time, or some playback issues on iOS. Apple is suggesting developers to backup their iTunes music libraries before installing and subscribing.

More information about iTunes Match is available on Apple’s website. Ars Technica also had a good write-up about this new service back in June.

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UK Won’t Get iTunes Match, Cloud Until 2012

Those living in the United Kingdom will get to enjoy Spotify for a bit long as those living in the United States get to enjoy Apple’s iCloud and iTunes Match services between iOS 5 and Lion. Apple is still in the early stages of negotiations with the Performing Rights Society, who ensure composers, songwriters, and publishers all receive fair compensation for their works.

A music executive at one of the major record labels, who wished to remain unnamed, said: “Tentative talks have begun between the major labels and Apple in the UK. However, all talks are at the really early stages and no one expects to see the cloud music service live on this side of the pond until 2012.”

Even here in the United States, Apple still has yet to make deals with independent labels, and as with the initial launch of iTunes, Apple took their time as the rolled out their service to other countries. Mark Mulligan, VP and research director at Forrester Research, comments:

These types of negotiations take a long time… For one thing the UK arms of all the major record labels are biding their time and waiting to see how the service affects download sales in the US before they sign up to anything.

While the The Telegraph specifically exams licensing agreements in the UK, it’s likely that this situation holds true for the remainder of the world as well. For those in Europe, you’ll need to hang tight as Apple’s iCloud and the companion iTunes Match service go live. At the very least, iOS 5 doesn’t officially launch until this fall, so you just might not have to wait that long once iOS 5 devices start shipping.

[The Telegraph via MacRumors]