Apple Unveils iTunes Radio, A Streaming Music Service With The Full Power Of The iTunes Library

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Apple had no shortage of new things to announce at WWDC 2013 today, and iTunes Radio is one of the highlights. The company’s new music service has been long-rumored, but now the curtains are drawn and we can see what the Pandora-like streaming radio offering actually looks like.

iTunes Radio is essentially what we’ve been hearing it would be: a streaming music service that takes your tastes into account in order to play tracks that are likely to be in line with your tastes. Apple really has essentially taken its Genius jukebox-style feature, which combs your library and builds genre-based playlists, or suggests recommended artists and tracks based on what you’re currently listening to. The difference with the new service is that it can access the entire iTunes catalog, which, at this point, is well over 26 million tracks. Sony, Universal and Warner are all on board.

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The service will be free for U.S. users, and will use both text and audio ads to support the free streaming. iTunes Match subscribers won’t receive ads, making the subscription service a bit more compelling. Track skipping is supported, which was something that was reported to be a sticking point in negotiations with music label partners leading up to this product launch.

What’s striking is that it looks a lot like Pandora. On iOS, you create your custom stations, you can give a thumb up if you like a song. In the corner of every song, iOS shows a “Buy” button to make to funnel song purchases in the iTunes Store. It was probably one of the requirements to sign the deals with major music companies and could become a good revenue generator for the iTunes Store.

As a reminder, Google has just introduced its own streaming music service, All Access for Google Play, which will cost users $9.99 per month after June 30 and provides complete access to 18 million songs available on Play. This service competes more with Spotify and Rdio than with Pandora. Google is also releasing an app for iOS devices to provide access to the service. Pandora, which has around 20 million tracks, offers its basic product for free, but also has a premium tier called Pandora One for $3.99 per month that drops ads, provides access to a desktop app and ups the number of skips a user is allowed per day.

Apple’s iTunes Radio will arrive sometime in the fall for U.S. users initially. The release should coincide with iOS 7. In Addition to iOS devices, the Apple TV will get iTunes Radio.

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WWDC 13 Coverage