iTunes Match open to developers: Surprise streaming

Apple surprises developers with early access to iTunes Match -- over-delivering on its promises at WWDC, and warding off competitors at the same time.

Apple was not very forthcoming about its upcoming iTunes Match service during WWDC this year.

What Apple failed to mention is, as its competitors feared, that iTunes 'in the cloud' will support music streaming as well as downloading.

The cloud-based iTunes service will replace low quality music with a higher bitrate, and legitimise your pirate music collection.

Apple has started giving developers early access to iTunes Match, along with other new services and products announced at WWDC 2011, including iOS 5 and the iCloud service.

But out of nowhere, Apple has added the option to stream tracks from the cloud to iTunes Match users.

Previously, Apple had only mentioned that tracks could be played after downloading, as iTunes Match was announced at the developer conference.

According to AppleInsider, music will automatically be streamed from the iCloud, but is also available to download content from their cloud-stored collection.

Competitors, including Google, Amazon and Spotify must be shaking in their boots.

Apple does not boast about being the first in all instances. Instead, by taking its time to find a killer angle or aspect to the already-established available services, the technology giant appears keen to catch up with competitors that already stream music from the web.

Notably Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player, released this summer but both still in beta, will have to struggle to catch up or maintain their current lead ahead of the iTunes Match release later this year.

Spotify could also suffer as a result -- a service based entirely on streaming music for basic users, and legally downloading content for offline use and purchasing music for premium users.

But why didn't Apple announce it there and then at WWDC, and killed off the competitor while it had the chance, instead of allowing both Google and Amazon to grow and compete en par?

It's likely that Apple had not been given permission from the music labels to stream music, unlike Google and Amazon which shot ahead without saying a word.

iTunes Match is free of charge ahead of the release, for qualified developers only. When the service is released in fall this year, it will cost $24.99 a year, and cover 25,000 tracks in the iTunes library.

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