Apple Finally Rolls Out ‘iTunes Match’ Cloud Music Storage

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Originally promised in October, Apple’s $25-per-year iTunes Match service has finally gone live. Unlike competing services that let you upload your songs “to the cloud” for easy access from other computers and portable devices, iTunes Match scans your music collection and cross-references your songs with the songs on its servers. If there’s a match—get it?—then you’ll have access to that song while on the go.

Apple’s official word on iTunes Match is as follows:

“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 for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 20 million songs in the iTunes Store, chances are, your music is already in iCloud. And for the few songs that aren’t, iTunes has to upload only what it can’t match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream and store it to 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.”

That includes songs you may have obtained by less-than-legal means—not that you’d ever do something like that. I picture the late Steve Jobs in front of a group of music executives saying, “You guys might as well get paid something for all the music that’s been pirated. We’re gonna set the price at $25 and I suggest you get on board.”

It’s important to note that the service is currently only available in the U.S. and you’re limited to 25,000 songs, although tracks you’ve purchased via iTunes don’t count against your limit.

To get started with iTunes Match, download the latest version of iTunes here…

MORE: Will ‘iTunes Match’ Make Your Pirated Music Any Less Illegal?

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