updated 02:05 pm EDT, Tue August 30, 2011
Downloads just playing before completion
iTunes Match is not doing any remote streaming of music, an Apple spokesperson clarifies. Despite initial appearances, the spokesperson explains that any music held in iCloud must still be downloaded to a device before it can be played. What looks like streaming is said to be just simultaneous downloading and playback, even though a person hasn't actually selected the permanent download option.
While the difference is subtle, it does mean that anyone using iTunes Match is consuming some local storage. Temporary downloads are likely cleared from cache occasionally, though iTunes Match is still so new that this behavior hasn't been spotted yet.
An executive with a major music label tells All Things Digital that Apple's system is not related to missing rights from labels or publishers, since the company already has streaming rights. The person instead claims that the approach is a conscious design meant to achieve two objectives. The first is to get around the limits of telecom networks, since Apple allegedly doesn't trust carriers to handle on-demand streaming. The other is branding, as Apple supposedly wants people to associate entertainment with its own hardware, rather than make it something that can be accessed anywhere through a web browser.
"Apple's platform is all about these files on their devices, that have incredibly great playback experience for the consumer," the executive remarks. "The other cloud version, the Google version, of playback on any device on the cloud –- they’re not interested in that. Apple is using the cloud to fix and advance their ecosystem."