Dad, Musician, and Nerd
Peter Kafka notes that Apple isn’t referring to the new ability to listen to all your music on iTunes before you fully download it as “streaming”. Okay, then if this isn’t music streaming, then neither is Google Music Beta on Android. Because I have from an excellent source that it does the exact same thing.
But why do it this way and not 100% streaming? Two reasons:
1) Performance. Without caching the music, if you lose a connection, it’s game over. Music stops. That’s why all of these services cache and/or buffer to some extent, including things like Pandora.
2) Legality. You can argue semantics, but if you hit a button and a song instantly starts playing before it’s fully downloaded to your machine, that’s streaming. But if these guys call it that, that means another deal is likely required with the music labels. So instead it’s not called “streaming”, it’s called “downloading on the fly” or the like.
Update: And here’s a video showing that iOS will delete the cache after a song is done playing. Call it what you want, that’s streaming — the right way to do streaming for connection interruptions. The music does not permanently reside on your device, nor does it need to fully be there to start playing.
At first I was mildly annoyed by the semantic arguments popping up in the tech press about Apple’s iTunes Match service, as though a thousand voices clamored for the opportunity to play vocabulary police each shouting out the correct definitions of the words “streaming” and “downloading”. It seems the discovery that iTunes Match allows you to play music without downloading it all of the way first was somehow an affront to the sensibility of the crowd, with variations of “But you said…” exploding into the ether.
But I believe Mr. Siegler has hit the nail on the head here - if Apple calls iTunes Match a streaming service in their PR and application descriptions, they will most likely have to broker a streaming deal with the record companies. If they simply say that users are downloading songs and it is simply a useful feature that songs begin to play immediately, well, no streaming deal need be made.
Let’s be clear, however, iTunes Match does indeed stream. MacRumors forum member crisss1205 points out the verbiage in iTunes seems to be leaning in that direction. So while Apple will dodge a financial bullet by calling iTunes Match a download service, I’m wondering if their spin will or won’t confuse users. The value of the (already cheap) service just skyrocketed but Apple PR is trying to downplay the feature, saying it doesn’t do the valuable thing, it does something else.
Well, it is still in beta, of course. Perhaps they will nip “streaming” in the bud.