Apple Strikes Up Match
Nov 15, 2011 5:00 AM PT
Apple has released a new edition of iTunes, version 10.5.1, which includes its belated iTunes Match service.
iTunes Match scans a user's library to form a comprehensive list of the user's songs, including music that was not purchased from the Apple iTunes store. If it finds a match in iTunes, Apple then provides the user with a cloud-based version of the same song from iTunes. Songs not included in Apple's catalog are uploaded and also made available to the user via the cloud. The music from iTunes Match plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality. The fee for this service is US$24.99 per year.
Apple originally announced the service in June with promises to roll it out for general use in by October. The company did not say why the launch had been delayed.
Shortly after iTunes Match launched, many users reported difficulty signing up for it. That is to be expected, Rob Walch, host of Today in iOS, told MacNewsWorld.
"Every time Apple, or any vendor for that matter, rolls out a new service, you can expect a few glitches." He does wonder though, whether the service will scale well if tens of millions of iTunes users start to use it. "One of my initial thoughts about the service was, how well would it work if millions were trying to access it at the same time to stream music?" Walch said.
Walch also wonders how wide of an audience there is for a such a service. Realistically, many people who would pay for the service have music downloaded from another source -- and quite possibly an illegal source, at that.
Apple users tend to be monogamous in their device uses, though, Walch pointed out. "This isn't a service that I would find useful, for example."
Whether or not crowds of iTune users take Apple up on the offer, though, is almost beside the point. Apple had to offer some cloud-based service if only to get its offerings on par with what Google is expected to offer this week, not to mention Amazon's music-storing service.
In that respect, iTunes Match competes well with other offerings, Walch suggested. "I have talked to developers who seem pleased with its features."
A Victory for Consumers?
Even if only a relatively small amount of people use the service, it still represents a victory for consumers, Azita Arvani of the Arvani Group told MacNewsWorld.
"Consumers already own multiple connected devices. So it is just a natural progression for them to want to have their content available whenever they wish."
There is also an emotional component to the offering that will resonate with Apple users, even if the service is not something they necessarily need, she continued.
"Consumers want to listen to their music on any of their devices, anytime they wish." For that reason, Arvani predicts the service will eventually make tremendous traction, especially as awareness grows.
Also, she pointed out, the $25 per year is a reasonable price for storing as many as 25,000 songs, on top of what a user has already purchased from iTunes.
iTunes Match also acts a like a music amnesty program for consumers who may have gotten their music through questionable channels, Arvani continued.
"They would be able to bring them their music up to the surface and use them through a legitimate channel. I'd expect this would encourage folks to purchase things in a more legitimate way in the future," she said.
The larger point, though, is that it shows that consumers want to pay once for their music and enjoy it on all of their devices, she said. "Google Music is going that direction as well. But at this point, they have lesser backing from the music studios."