Apple’s streaming music service could make your music collection better

May 27, 2011
Music

Newish rumored details are emerging concerning Apple’s answer to Google Music, a cloud-based music service that could make users’ music collections better. The rumored streaming music service Apple (AAPL) is building, which most of the Internet seems to think is called “iCloud,” isn’t going to work in the same ways as Amazon (AMZN) and Google’s […]

Newish rumored details are emerging concerning Apple’s answer to Google Music, a cloud-based music service that could make users’ music collections better.

The rumored streaming music service Apple (AAPL) is building, which most of the Internet seems to think is called “iCloud,” isn’t going to work in the same ways as Amazon (AMZN) and Google’s (GOOG) services. Those two platforms allow users to upload their music to a server on the Internet, and then stream their own files back to any devices they want to using an Internet connection. So upload your MP3 library from your computer to Google Music, for example, and then you can play that track on your Android phone, without having to store it.

Apple is going one better than those existing services, according to a story from PC World. Instead of uploading tracks to the cloud server, Apple will “mirror” them – that is, the iCloud service will scan through users’ music libraries and then find those same tracks that already exist on Apple’s servers, so there will be no uploading and no “digital locker” storage online like Google and Amazon provide. You still have to own the track you’re streaming through iCloud, but you don’t have to copy it to the Internet in order to use it. This is the same system streaming music service Streamedy uses.

Apple already has all that music available anyway since it provides it through iTunes for sale, so it makes sense that the company wouldn’t want to add a bunch of extra server space just to allow users to upload tracks to which Apple already has access. And this has the added side-effect of giving users the best quality track for streaming using iCloud. So while you might have a scratchy, slightly corrupt MP3 you ripped off a half-broken CD you bought in 1989 scanned to iCloud, Apple will stream you back a pristine digital track from its master files.

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The other benefit of the scan system Apple is reportedly using, other than giving access to higher-quality tracks, is that users won’t have to go through the lengthy, sometimes hours-long process of uploading their tracks to the Internet. With Google Music, Amazon, mSpot and other streaming services, users have to wait for their music to upload, and with big music libraries, that can take a really, really long time. Since Apple will just be scanning users’ libraries, the process should go much quicker.

We’ve also been hearing that Apple’s service will actually leave some portion of a user’s music tracks on the devices to which they stream content. The idea here is that when a user picks a track to play on iCloud, the program will start by playing a snippet of the song that’s left locally saved on the device’s hard drive. That would allow the track to start immediately, rather than creating a slight lag while iCloud gathers data from the Internet to stream the track.

With the snippet playing, iCloud has a few seconds to get the data for the rest of the song and fill in the gaps, but the effect would be seamless to the listener. It would also allow users to quickly flip between tracks with no delay, just as if they were listening to tracks saved locally on their device.

Apple is widely expected to announce and explain iCloud in detail at its Worldwide Developers Conference on June 6. Be sure to check back here then to get the straight dope on whatever Apple makes official.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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