iCloud: More Details Leaked

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Image courtesy of iPhoneFAQ
Image courtesy of iPhoneFAQ

Apple’s iCloud music locker will not require users to laboriously upload all the music in their iTunes libraries, but will instead rely on “scan and match.”

We all know iCloud is coming at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) — Apple itself pre-announced it.

And we already know that iCloud will:

  • Stream songs from the cloud to Macs, PCs, iPhones, iPads, and maybe at some point cars.
  • Apple and the labels will charge a monthly subscription fee.
  • Songs will be matched with songs on user’s hard drives or iTunes libraries. If the sound quality of a song is poor, Apple will upgrade it with a higher-quality version.

One big question, however, is whether users will be forced to upload their music libraries to Apple’s servers.

Not according to The Wall Street Journal. Apple has reportedly struck deals with the major record labels to “scan and match” songs on users’ hard drives.

iTunes will scan users’ music libraries and make copies of the songs it finds available through the user’s Music Locker.

This is a lot easier than uploading a massive music library to the cloud, as both Amazon Cloud Player and Google Music require users to do.

It’s not clear, however, whether scan and match will be limited to songs purchased through iTunes, or will apply to music ripped from CDs, purchased from other sources, or pirated off the Net.

It’s also not clear whether the system will use tags and other metadata, or some kind of acoustic fingerprinting like Gracenote. It may be based in part on technology acquired when Apple bought Lala, a start-up company that allowed users to play music they already owned on the Web. However, LaLa’s “Music Mover” required users to upload their tunes to the cloud before they could be streamed. Apple closed LaLa in 2009 after the purchase.

Either way, Apple has signed up three of the four major record labels, according to the Journal, and is expected to finalize an agreement with Universal Music Group later this week.

Eliminating the laborious process of uploading music libraries to the cloud is a major coup for Apple, and will certainly cement iTunes’ lead as the number one digital music leader.

Can anyone else compete? Are Amazon and Google toast?