[UPDATE: An Apple representative told All Things Digital that iTunes in the Cloud will not include streaming, as reported here. Users will be able to listen to a song while it's downloading--hence Insanely Great Mac's video of what appears to be streaming in action--but the file will need to be stored locally in order to be heard. The original story continues below.]
Apple’s iTunes “Match” service could be a space saver for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users with big music collections. A beta for iTunes Match shows that the service can stream songs in addition to downloading.
A video published by Insanely Great Mac shows iTunes Match streaming in action. All you have to do is tap the song you want to play, and it’ll begin streaming through the Internet. Of course you’ll also be able to download songs to the device by tapping the cloud icon that appears next to each song, as announced in June.
iTunes Match is a $25 per year service that syncs your entire music library with Apple’s servers, allowing you to download songs to any iOS device, Mac or PC, regardless of whether you purchased the songs through iTunes or not. Without iTunes Match, users will still be able to re-download any songs they’ve purchased from iTunes, but songs from other sources won’t be available without manually loading them onto the device.
Until now, Apple hadn’t advertised streaming as part of iTunes Match. The emphasis was clearly on downloads, with no mention of streaming anywhere in Apple’s product description. My guess is that Apple was still negotiating streaming rights with record labels when the company announced iTunes Match in June, and didn’t want to make any promises without the rights in place.
With streaming, iTunes Match will make sense for iPhone users whose music occupies most of the device’s storage space. Instead of getting a phone with more storage at a cost of $100, users can spend $25 per year on iTunes Match instead. If the phone is replaced in two years, the user would save $50 by forgoing a more expensive iPhone model.
The new features will be available to the public sometime this fall, though an exact date hasn’t been announced yet.