The Apple iCloud which currently is available only to developers but that is expected to be publicly released in the coming month was first announced without true streaming from the iCloud to a device, but the most recent beta release shows that the iTunes Match feature supports streaming of library to multiple devices as well, if you live in the US that is.
iOS 5 beta testers earlier this week got first access to the iTunes Match beta service, which is Apple’s paid cloud service for all your music and media, revealing the streaming option as a nice little surprise from Apple that was not expected at this stage. iTunes Match is the service that scans all your music files on your computer (up to 25,000 songs) and matches them with the same tracks in the iTunes Music Store. The service will even upgrade the quality of the file for you if needed. If the track can’t be matched you are prompted to upload your file instead. As for now the iTunes Match service is US only, so we here in the UK will just have to be patient and wait for a further announcement.
Previously we were led to believe that the iCloud service would not stream content to your devices, but instead just make it easier to sync and download the content onto each individual device without the need for cables. This recent discovery however means that you have the option to either download the media from the iCloud onto your device, or just stream it directly from the iCloud. Here is a nice little intro video on how it works.
Streaming from the iCloud makes it even more competitive compared to already launched cloud based music services, such as Music Beta from Google and the Amazon Cloud Player. But it also raises the issue of connectivity and mobile data allowance, potentially putting additional strain on often slow mobile data networks, as well as potentially becoming very expensive if you stream a lot over mobile data networks, going over your monthly data allowance, which for most networks in the UK is around 500mb a month.
The announcement of iTunes Match streaming could also well be another indication that Apple is set to release a lower cost iPhone model that will rely on streaming of media instead of physically storing it on the phone itself. We have already reported on the 8GB iPhone 4 rumors as well as the so-called iPhone 4S model, which is believed to be Apple’s solution for bringing down the entry cost of getting an iPhone for the markets that are more reliant on prepaid solutions (including China).
No exact release date has been set yet for the iCloud, but it is expected to be released this fall together with iOS 5 and potentially the new iPhone 5.
Update! According to an AllThingsDigital post today the ‘streaming’ feature in the video above, and as described by earlier sources, is not an actual stream, but rather a feature that allows you to listen to the song while it is being downloaded, possibly to be stored only in a cache somewhere on your device. They have received this information from Apple themselves, but no detailed information about how it will work has been included.