Among the new product announcements Apple made today at an event at its Cupertino, Calif. headquarters (via gdgt):
â˘ Appleâs iPhone 4S, available Oct. 14, will mark the first time the company offers 64GB of storage in its smartphone (for $399). The new model features a processor thatâs twice as fast at CPU tasks as the chip in the current iPhone 4; other features include 1080p HD video recording capability. The current iPhone 4 will now sell for $99 (featuring 8GB of storage), while an 8GB iPhone 3GS will be a free option for cell phone subscribersâincluding Sprint customers.
â˘ Appleâs free iCloud service will launch in the U.S. on Oct. 12. Meanwhile, iTunes Match, Appleâs premium cloud music service, will debut at the end of the month. In reviewing iTunes Match, Appleâs Eddy Cue said that the service would âstreamâ songs to usersâ mobile devices; but the consensus remains that iTunes Match will not offer a streaming component like Amazonâs Cloud Music Player.
Itâs still unclear whether iTunes Match will offer music streaming, despite a video clip (via Insanely Great Mac) demonstrating what appears to be a streaming function in Appleâs forthcoming service.
An Apple spokesperson tells All Things Digital that iTunes Match users will need to store songs on their iPad, iPhone, or computer after they access them from their cloud-based iTunes Match account. Even though it has released a beta for iTunes Match to developers, Apple is remaining cagey on whether the service requires actual downloads of songs to devices, or whether users will be able to store songs in a temporary cache, as Spotify Premium users can to play songs while in an offline mode.
We may have to wait until Appleâs fall introduction of iTunes Match to ascertain just how it stacks up against a paid streaming service such as Spotify Premium. But one fundamental difference between Apple and its streaming rivals is already evident.
Although Apple will charge an annual $25 fee for iTunes Match, customers will only be able to access music that they have purchased from iTunes (or acquired from elsewhere). This is in keeping with the access-upon-ownership model that Apple, in cooperation with studios, recently effected for television programming on iTunes.
Spotify Premium is more akin to the subscription model of Netflix: users pay $120 a year for unlimited streaming access to most any music in the companyâs 15-million-song catalog. Users can supplement their Spotify playlists with music that they have acquired from iTunes or elsewhere (e.g., Beatles tracks); but Spotify does not offer even Premium users the ability to store music in a cloud-based streaming locker.
Over the last eight years, Numero Group has made a name for itself among music collectors â yes, there still are some â for its deluxe LP and CD editions of obscure soul recordings. But Numero sees little benefit to joining Appleâs forthcoming iTunes Match service â at least on the current terms Apple is offering independent labels.
iTunes Match will purportedly save users hours of time in transferring their digital music libraries to Apple-managed cloud storage accounts. Critics of the service say it also will effectively legitimize a userâs unauthorized music downloads, replacing them with high-quality iTunes files as part of a $25 annual fee.
The amount of money that a small independent like Numero would see from iTunes Match royalties wouldnât begin to account for the revenue that tens of thousands of pirated downloads represent. The label tells Ars Technica that the digital piracy rate of its average release is between 10 and 20 times that of legitimate sales.
âWe are primarily a physical goods company,â says Numero co-owner Rob Sevier. âBecause of that, we donât get too bogged down in bootlegging; we just canât stay up all night and worry about it. But for Apple to say that all your bootlegs are welcome, it just bothers us.â
In contrast to the cloud music services of Amazon.com and Google, Appleâs âiTunes in the Cloudâ lacks a streaming component. That surprises some music industry observers:Â Wired, for example, had expected Apple would introduce new streaming-based features to iTunes such as online song sharing or collaborative playlist building capabilities. On its face, Apple’s forthcoming iTunes Match seems to be about increasing access to music, but as All Things Digital reports, the service remains rooted in the concept of ownership, with Apple continuing to emphasize the primacy of downloading content to individual devices.
Younger digital music startups contend that none of the new cloud-based services go far enough in developing new models for record labels and publishers. âWe canât enrich the music industry,â says Beyond Oblivion CEO Adam Kidron, by “going to the same five percent [of consumers] who already pay for music.â Kidronâs company advocates integrating the cost of an unlimited music license into the price of new entertainment devices or services.
The âiTunes Matchâ service â part of a slate of new iCloud products that Apple unveiled at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday â will offer music fans a simple way to sync their digital music collections across multiple devices, while providing record labels and music publishers with another potential revenue source.
For a $24.99 annual fee, Apple will provide iTunes users with cloud-based storage of up to 20,000 songs, automatically âmatchingâ music that wasnât purchased in iTunes to high-quality, DRM-free equivalents from the iTunes retail catalog.
During his conference keynote, Appleâs Steve Jobs pitched the value of iTunes Match as saving users time. Compared to rival cloud music storage services from Amazon and Google, which require users to upload their libraries to online accounts, Appleâs hard-disk scanning capability means that music library transfers are complete in âminutes, not weeksâ (via The Wall Street Journal).
Apple made no mention of licenses by record labels or music publishers for iTunes Match, but the industryâs major players are reported to have agreed to new licensing terms with the company, which remains the leading digital music retailer in the U.S. The new service, if successful, would seem to provide record labels and publishers with some compensation for downloads that music consumers continue to acquire illegally.
While iTunes Match is set for a fall launch, Apple made available on Monday a free beta version of âiTunes in the Cloud,â offering syncs of usersâ previous iTunes music purchases across as many as 10 Apple devices.
Separately, Apple announced at the conference that it would market its Lion upgrade to the OS X operating system exclusively via the digital Mac App Store. The $29, 4GB release will be the first operating system upgrade that is unavailable on optical disc.
More iCloud and iOS news at Ars Technica.