Every move that Apple makes in the digital sphere has implications on the digital entertainment world and last week’s announcement of the iCloud was no exception. As predicted, the company’s new cloud service stores the data that exists on various computers, smartphones and tablets to the virtual space so that that calendars, mail, contacts, photos, music and documents will be seamlessly updated on all your devices. Apple’s ubiquity and the fact that the iCloud is such an all-round data product means that it has already surpassed Amazon and Google’s cloud music services. It makes you think – where is Microsoft in all of this?
Apple’s iMatch feature is their answer to Google Music and Amazon Cloud Drive in terms of the management of music libraries. Firstly, iCloud means that any music you have bought from the iTunes Store in the past or future will automatically be available for your other devices: whether that’s a PC running Windows Vista (but not XP), a Macbook, an iPad or an iPhone.
Apple managed to secure what Google and Amazon could not: agreements with the major music labels. Most interestingly, for $24.99 a year (only available in the U.S for now), iMatch will scan your existing iTunes library for music you haven’t purchased from iTunes. It matches those songs with their equivalents in the iTunes Store and automatically adds the 256kbps iTunes version to your iCloud library. If no match is found, you can upload the song to the cloud yourself. The number of unmatched songs you can upload is limited to 25,000.
Reaction to iMatch was mixed. Many commentators seemed disappointed that the iCloud didn’t instantly revolutionise our entertainment habits. Apple are not offering a music streaming service to rival the likes of Spotify, rather they are offering fancy synchronisation of your existing music collection. While it’s true that with major label support and a catalogue of 18 million songs, iTunes would be the ultimate streaming service, that is not within the interests of Apple. Their modus operandi is to sell more of their iOS devices.
Others said that iMatch legitimises piracy. Is that a bad thing? These illegally-downloaded songs already exist on a person’s hard-drive so maybe this amnesty of sorts will create a new dependency on iTunes and change downloading habits.
As for the music makers and copyright holders, there should be no complaints. What iMatch’s license fee enables Apple to do, is to pay the rights owners of a song which was never paid for in the first place. Let me say that again – Apple is giving you free money for previously-acquired illegal downloads. And that also applies to MP3 rips from a CD legally bought in a shop. You’re getting paid TWICE. Sounds like a win win to me.