Apple's iCloud to Bring iTunes Streaming Music Service

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Apple's (NAS: AAPL) forthcoming iCloud digital media storage platform will include streaming functionality enabling consumers to access their music library via iOS-based devices, Macs and PCs. Apple confirmed the feature late Monday with the release of its iTunes Match developer beta, stating, "iTunes Match stores your complete music library in iCloud, allowing you to enjoy your collection anywhere, anytime, on any iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or computer."

Apple unveiled iCloud in early June, announcing the service will roll out this fall in conjunction with its iOS 5 mobile operating system revamp. The iCloud solution automatically syncs content on Apple servers for access across web-connected devices; at the same time, Apple announced iTunes in the Cloud, which enables consumers to download previously purchased iTunes music to all iOS devices at no additional cost, as well as iTunes Match, which essentially mirrors music files downloaded from sources other than Apple's digital storefront with a 256 kbps AAC DRM-free version culled from the iTunes Store. Apple did not previously indicate the service would include streaming functionality as well.

Apple will launch iTunes Match this fall, priced at $24.99 per year. The current beta service is accessible solely to registered developers who've downloaded the latest iOS 5 beta.

Apple introduced iCloud on the heels of rival cloud music services rolled out earlier this year by Amazon.com and Google (NAS: GOOG) . Unlike iCloud, neither effort launched with major label licensing deals in place, meaning consumers must spend hours or even days uploading their digital libraries directly to each company's respective servers. The music industry is counting on iCloud quickly eclipsing Amazon and Google, effectively forcing both companies to consent to the labels' licensing demands -- pundits say the inclusion of iTunes Match streaming seems likely to further accelerate that process.

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