iTunes Match Released by Apple as Streaming Service for Songs Not in iTunes Store

Apple's iTunes Match was released Monday and now allows iCloud users to legally connect all of their music to their other Apple devices – whether the music was purchased from the iTunes store, ripped from a CD or downloaded illegally.

The service is the legal component of the already released iCloud. Without it, users can only upload and share their music purchased through iTunes. With it, however, users can legal store all their music with the service, which costs $24.99 per year.

The service works by scanning a user's computer hard drive and uploading songs that are not included in the iTunes store. The songs are stored on Apple's servers and then streamed to the user's other Apple devices, such as the iPad, iPod, iPhone, or Apple TV.

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The program is available with the new iTunes 10.5.1 download, although users must subscribe to use the service.

The release comes after nearly one month of delays, according to reports.

Users who upgrade to iTunes 10.5.1 can share their music on up to 10 devices, The Washington Post reported.

Music, since it is matched to songs found in the iTunes store, will automatically playback at 256 Kbps, despite how the music was uploaded originally.

Users will experience the higher-quality music played on their devices as a result of how the music is stored. Since music is kept on Apple's servers and streamed to individual devices, the higher bit-rate versions are used.

Initially, Apple was overwhelmed with new subscribers when iTunes Match went live. The service was temporarily unavailable for new users.

The problem was been fixed, according to reports.

The service is not unlimited, CNET reported. Apple's new music hosting service can handle up to 25,000 songs per user.

It is unclear what options will be offered to users who wish to upload more than 25,000 songs.

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