Apple launches iTunes Match - but only in the US
APPLE has launched iTunes Match, its cloud storage service for music, but the service is US only for now.
Apple's iCloud service already allowed users to download new and past iTunes purchases to all their devices. iTunes Match extends that facility to music that hasn't been bought from iTunes.
As long as it is in the iTunes Store then it can be downloaded from the cloud to every device. Music that cannot be matched in the iTunes Store can still be uploaded to iCloud. The service costs $24.99 per year and is limited to 25,000 songs.
Both Amazon and Google launched similar cloud music services earlier this year. However, those services launched without agreement from record labels, which means users have to upload all of their songs one at a time.
Apple claims that iTunes Match is better than services from rivals such as Amazon and Google because instead of requiring you to upload your songs to the cloud manually, iTunes scans your library and automatically adds them for you.
Apple's website says: "Since there are more than 20 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. Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream and store it on 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."
The fact that Apple will allow you sync copies of songs without checking whether you have bought them or illegally downloaded them, has meant that some have described iTunes Match as an 'amnesty' for music pirates.
Apple has not yet confirmed a release date for iTunes Match in Britain. When iCloud was announced, in June, music industry sources told the Telegraph that the music parts of the service would be unlikely to launch until 2012.
However, the first part of the service - iTunes in the Cloud - has been available in Britain since last month so it is possible that iTunes Match will follow soon.
As well as music, Apple's iCloud service syncs photos, documents, appointments and contacts between computers. Steve Jobs, Apple's late chief executive, unveiled iCloud at Apple's WWDC event in San Francisco in June. He described it as his company's "next big insight".