Apple has just announced its long-awaited cloud-based music service: iTunes in the Cloud. While not a streaming music service as some had speculated, it will let you download any music you’ve purchased to all of your devices at no additional charge — something Steve Jobs notes is a first for the music industry. All new music you purchase can also automatically be downloaded and pushed to up to ten different devices — and, as with the other apps that make up the broader iCloud service, it’s completely free, with a beta version available today (in the US only, unfortunately).
What’s more, Apple has also announced a complementary iTunes Match service that will let you put your existing collection of ripped CDs in the cloud. That’s done by scanning your library and matching songs to the versions Apple already has (a DRM-free 256kbps AAC file), rather than uploading everything — a process Apple notes takes “minutes,” not “weeks” — although songs will be uploaded in cases where there is no match. It will run you $24.99 a year (for up to 25,000 songs, apparently), and promises to give you all of the “same benefits as music purchased from iTunes” when it launches sometime this fall.