Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Apple's iCloud, iTunes Match: How Apple's Music Services Measure Up


Now that Apple has at last revealed the details of its streaming music service on the iCloud, we can finally get a sense of how it measures up to the existing competition.
Apple's iCloud and related iTunes Match are gunning straight for Amazon's Cloud Player and Google Music Beta, and based on the details revealed during Steve Job's speech today, Amazon and Apple should be worried. When it comes to user ease, price point, and functionality, Apple's new service has a leg up.
It's important to note that the iCloud encompasses not only music, but contacts, email, calendar, photos, apps, ebooks as well. All of these components will be synced across devices and available for free. Only music purchased in iTunes will be synced for free, while music from other sources can be synced through its $24.99 a year iTunes Match service.
At $24.99 a year, Apple far undercuts Amazon, which offers 5 gigabytes (or about 1,000 songs) for free before switching to a pricing tier. For users with about 20,000 songs or 100 GB of music, Amazon charges $100 a year (each gigabyte per year is another dollar). Jobs noted that Apple will let users store an unlimited number of songs--still for $24.99. Google Music Beta, which is invite-only at the moment, is free.
But both Google and Amazon lag drastically behind Apple in one key capacity: Upload speed. While uploading full libraries of music to Amazon and Google’s service could take weeks, Apple’s will take mere minutes. Apple’s able to pull off this trick because of the music licenses Apple was reported to have signed. Basically, Apple doesn’t actually have to upload your music, just to scan your collection and then match it to their preexisting catalogue in the cloud. What can’t be matched is uploaded.
"We have 18 million songs in the music store. Our software will scan what you have, the stuff you've ripped, and figure out if there's a match,” Jobs said. “If you have to upload your whole library, that could take weeks. If we're scanning and matching, we don't have to upload them. They're in the cloud. It takes just minutes. Not weeks."
And, though purchased music is synced free to the iCloud, while iTunes Match is a paid service, songs from iTunes Match will receive quality upgrades to 256 kpbs AAC. All of the songs in the cloud will be available on any iOS device that a user has through the iTunes interface. Amazon’s Cloud Player works on the web, and on Android, or by accessing the site through an iPhone’s mobile browser. Google Music Beta also works on Android and on web.

The Huffington Post  Amy Lee