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Apple Keeps iTunes Match from Falling Short

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Phew! You had us worried there for a second, Apple.

Upon its introduction back in early June, iTunes Match looked to be a fantastic offering in the Cloud-Based Music Race. Rather than upload gigabytes worth of data to an online storage locker, iTunes Match would utilize the technology from the Apple-acquired service Lala and "scan and match" your library tracks, connecting it to a 256kbs file -- no matter the quality of the original track -- on Apple's servers. From there, it's accessible from your Mac or any iOS device via iTunes.

The only problem was that the then-current iTunes in the Cloud service missed a key feature available in Google Music and the Amazon Cloud Drive: streaming.

Sure, compared to Google and Amazon, there are other shortcomings in the cloud-based iTunes. You're shackled to the bloated desktop software rather than a universal web app, the service won't sync music purchased outside of the iTunes Store, and those tracks purchased with DRM are re-downloaded with the DRM attached -- whereas music pirates are given amnesty and clean tracks.

And while iTunes Match was guaranteed to deliver DRM-free files and upload tracks acquired outside of the iTunes Store, there was a legitimate worry that the service would mirror the iTunes in the Cloud syncing method of downloading the entire file to your device before it could be played. However, new video walkthroughs of the developer beta -- courtesy of Insanely Great Mac -- show that users can both download and stream individual tracks from the cloud.

And the system looks fantastic on the Mac... well as the iPhone.

Yes, the service costs $24.99 a year to use while Google Music is free for the time being, but many users would gladly fork over roughly $0.50 a week to keep from having to upload 80GB of media to an online server.

And as long as the tech giants stay competitive, customers continue to win in an arena where, for decades, they consistently lost: the music industry.

(See also: Apple Screws Honest iTunes Customers and iPhone Rumor du Jour: Casing and Screen Size)

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