iTunes Match Launches Today

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As expected, the launch of iTunes Match is now upon us, with today’s release of iTunes 10.5.1, available from the iTunes website here. For those living under the proverbial rock, iTunes Match is the new service from Apple that gives you legal access to store all your music in iCloud – even those songs you didn’t originally purchase from iTunes. For $25 per year, iTunes Match will match tracks in your music collection to those in the iTunes catalog – a catalog that now includes over 20 million songs.

In theory, iTunes Match is meant to pair up the songs in your library you ripped from CDs, but in reality, it means your pirated tunes can now be made legal for a mere $25/year. And if you have an extensive collection of indie artists, local bands or DJs that live outside the i-Universe, iTunes Match will upload those MP3’s to iCloud, too. Once in iCloud, music can be streamed to any device and stored at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality – even if the original song was pirated purchased at lower quality.

The new service is just one of the features in iTunes 10.5.1, which also includes baked-in iCloud support, enabling you to access your songs, apps and books across all your Apple devices, without having to manually re-download the purchases on each additional device you own. The iCloud service lets you access and download past purchases, too, on whichever device you want.

The update to iTunes is out now, but iTunes Match is available only for U.S. users (sorry, world). To enable the service, you’ll need to switch it on after iTunes is installed.

P.S. For those of you who remember the debate about whether or not what iTunes Match is doing can be called “streaming,” you may be interested to see that Apple now uses the word “streaming” on its website to describe the service: “Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream and store it to any of your devices…”