Apple has opened the doors to its iTunes Match service. For $24.99 per year, users can synchronize their digital music collection with Apple’s iCloud service.
What that means is that you don’t need to upload your entire digital music collection to the cloud. Just download iTunes 10.5.1 on your Windows or Mac computer and it will scan your music and figure out if there’s already a copy of the same song on Apple’s servers.
As an added bonus, iTunes Match gives you 256kbps AAC DRM-free music, even if the file on your computer is a 96kpbs MP3 file. That’s because you’re not actually uploading most songs to iCloud. Instead, Apple just makes a note of which songs you own and matches your cute little music collection against Apple’s enormous collection which covers millions of songs.
If you do have tracks that aren’t already available, then Apple will upload them for you.
Theoretically the new service lets you match songs you’ve ripped from legally purchased CDs without having to buy those tracks again from iTunes. In practice, Apple doesn’t have any real way to distinguish songs you’ve ripped from songs you’ve downloaded from the internet, so those albums you grabbed from Napster 10 years ago are finally about to become legal.
Once you’ve signed up for iTunes Match you can access your songs on any Apple device. Technically you won’t be streaming your music… instead you can sign up for the service with your desktop computer and then be able to download and listen to any of your songs on your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, MacBook, or other Apple device for no additional fee.