Apple launched iTunes Match, a subscription-based service that complements its iCloud function and may give the company an edge over its competitors as the race for cloud power heats up.
The iCloud service, which launched along with iOS 5 last month, automatically stores photos, books, music and other media on a central, digital hard drive. Users can then download that media onto multiple devices like iPhones, iPads, and iPods.
For a yearly fee of $25, iTunes Match finds songs not downloaded via iTunes and converts them into updated, high quality music files that users can store on the iCloud.
Many MP3 users have music libraries that contain files from multiple sources, and perhaps include some from rival digital download services like Amazon and Google. Match allows a user’s entire library to be updated and stored in one convenient place, which may be a big incentive to customers when considering which service to pick.
Even older files downloaded illicitly from services like Kazaa and Limewire can be converted. Prior to this service, users could load those MP3′s onto their Apple devices, but could not access them via the iCloud.
The Match service may prove to be a good move for Apple, record companies, and users alike. For Apple, it precludes the need for users to upload songs to Apple servers for access to the cloud, which both Amazon and Google require. Record companies benefit because they will make money, a portion of user subscription fees, on music that may have been downloaded illegally, which they would never have received a profit on otherwise.
However, users may benefit most of all, gaining remote access to an updated music library from virtually anywhere without having to upload it first, and those who may have indulged in illegal file sharing in the past can now go legit.
One drawback is that the service is limited to Apple devices, so users must own Apple products to access it. On the other hand, similar services from Amazon and Google can reach a much wider array of devices, and Amazon’s service is also available to Apple users.
Still, for Apple fans and potential customers, iTunes Match is likely to excite. ITunes Match requires installation of the latest version of iTunes, 10.5.1, to run, and is currently available via Apple’s web site.