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Apple WWDC: iCloud is free, iTunes Match is $25 a year

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As expected, Steve Jobs said Monday that Apple's iCloud service will offer a feature called iTunes in the Cloud that replicates users' music collections (instead of copying the files from their hard drives into the cloud) for free.

And, as reported by The Times before Jobs' announcement, a $25 annual subscription option will be made available. The Apple chief executive called it iTunes Match.

For $25 a year, an iTunes Match user will be able to add music not purchased from iTunes to his or her iCloud music collection. The number of songs an iTunes Match subscriber can store is unlimited, Jobs said at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on Monday.

"Here's how it works," Apple said on its website. "iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to your iCloud library for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 18 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."

Songs with a match in the iTunes catalog are all replicated in a user's iCloud library at 256-kbps quality, which audiophiles should appreciate, even if the user had lower-quality files. 

Matching a user's iTunes library in the cloud take minutes, not days or weeks, Apple says. By contrast, Google's Music Beta and Amazon's Cloud Player services require users to upload song files to "cloud lockers" themselves and offer no matching options.

In order to pull all this off, Apple reached large contracts with major record labels, agreeing to give them a share of the revenue from iTunes Match subscriptions.

If iTunes Match users let their subscriptions run out and don't pay to re-up, their iCloud libraries would revert to just the songs they've bought from iTunes.

Apple released a free beta version of iTunes in the Cloud on Monday for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users running iOS 4.3. ITunes Match will arrive this fall.

The cloud efforts will be taxing on Apple's servers, but the company says it is prepared for the increased traffic.

"Apple is ready to ramp iCloud in its three data centers, including the third recently completed in Maiden, N.C.," the company said in a statement. "Apple has invested over $500 million in its Maiden data center to support the expected customer demand for the free iCloud services."

RELATED:

Apple WWDC: Mac OS X Lion will cost $29.99 in July, 250-plus new features

Apple WWDC: Steve Jobs announced iCloud in San Francisco [Live blog]

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Steve Jobs unveils the iCloud service at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg

 
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