It’s not often that you can catch something from Apple the moments after it goes live, gets released or becomes updated, without needing some kind of pre-order, reservation number or an inside connection. That’s the price of brand popularity.
Upon first skim over of the service’s description, I immediately pause and wonder about the long term impact of yet another cloud based, Apple managed, digital supply structure.
This is a screenshot of the portion of Apple’s website that describes how iTunes Match works. A video explanation of the service from cnet.com (when iTunes Match was still only released to developers, but with the main features the same,) is also below. To break it down in brief, here’s what you’d be getting yourself into:
1) 24.99 subscription per year
2) Any music you have ripped to your computer will now be accessible on the iCloud
3) Once you activate Match from the “Store” option in your iTunes Menu, it scans your whole collection against the 20 million track iTunes inventory and will provide you with a license to listen to the iTunes existent version of each matched song on your computer or any other iOS powered mobile device, with a limit of up to 10 separate devices.
4) Regardless of what your original ripped (talk about an oxymoron there,) file has as its quality –whether it’s space sapping .WAV format or commonplace, compressed mp3, the version provided to you via iTunes after scanning will always be at the continuing iTunes Store standard of 256 Kbps, AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), DRM-free, format.
I would say this last aspect is the one that provokes so much thought. The price isn’t so bad for an annual cost, and full library access can just make you feel better when you want that one particular song that didn’t previously fit. If an individual is left alone to enjoy their personal collection and goes nowhere beyond that, I’m sure that person would be happy to know that the 64Kbps, terrible radio rip they have of a few tracks are getting a serious boost in sound quality when that’s not what they ripped to their hard drive in the first place –and chances are, a file of that poor level of quality wasn’t even legally purchased. While on the one hand I see Apple getting sighs of relief/praises from customers because the company has come to grips with the fact that many people’s collections probably aren’t 100% originating from their store, (but are widening the scope of a person’s music library access,) in confining this matching capability to a one dimensional way of conversion and availability, they are potentially rewarding illegal downloaders and rippers who know how to alter track info to make their songs look more legitimate and recognizable by the iTunes Store. At the same time, with this same single format, they could potentially be punishing many audiophiles who may want to utilize the iCloud but do so with their carefully collected libraries of original quality, lossless tracks.
In attempting to balance access with their brand, I see a major faux-paus with this factor that is supposed to be considered an attractive enticing feature. That is of course if forced compression bothers you. I’m well aware that the general, music listening population probably doesn’t pay much attention to anything outside of mp3 format and to hear very straightforwardly that their libraries of mp3s are getting ‘promoted’ to AAC for listening on the go won’t cause disdain. Nonetheless, aside from being a leap in cloud availability for bringing people to another branch of the Apple brand, it seems like people will only be perpetuated to attain whatever version of a song or album they can, knowing that Apple is going to present them with a standardized file that can then be downloaded for non-stream playback.
If iTunes Match takes off, do you think this means AAC format (and subsequent level of quality) will start to flood more and more devices, CD-Rs and the like because people using the service will just look for the given conversion? Not to mention, with more and more just being cloud based and this only furthering access to libraries that far exceed smaller iPods, is Apple steadily killing off more of its smaller capacity devices?