updated 10:55 am EST, Tue February 28, 2012
Tech could allow new service, improve iTunes Match
Apple is at work on a new file format that should enable "adaptive steaming" of high- or low-quality audio to iCloud users, The Guardian claims. The format will allegedly adjust itself to the bandwidth and storage on a given device, and it's speculated that it could allow downloading "HD" audio to iOS devices, or else form the backbone of a long-rumored streaming music service. More firm, though, is thought to be integration with iTunes Match, the combination upload and streaming service launched late last year.
A Guardian source with "inside knowledge of the process" states that Apple has asked a London studio to prepare audio files for the new format. "All of a sudden, all your audio from iTunes is in HD rather than AAC. Users wouldn't have to touch a thing -– their library will improve in an instant," the person says. The format might be most important for iPhone users, who could theoretically stream files over 3G without consuming tons of bandwidth; an iPad user on Wi-Fi, by contrast, might be able to get full-quality music.
The Guardian says it is unsure if files will be converted to smaller types (like AAC) in real time, or if Apple will simply make several different versions of master files once something its submitted to iTunes. The paper does make the speculation, though, that Apple will announce something about the format alongside the iPad 3, expected to be revealed on March 7th.
Before his death, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is said to have been interested in higher-quality audio to deal with the inevitable loss associated with compression. The company also recently started encouraging music publishers to submit files in 24-bit and 96KHz, as compared to the 16-bit/44.1KHz CD standard. "As technology advances and bandwidth, storage, battery life, and processor power increase, keeping the highest quality masters available in our systems allows for full advantage of future improvements to your music," part of an Apple guide reads. "These masters matter –- especially given the move into the cloud on post-PC devices."