This week iTunes got a little more Web savvy with a feature designed to clean up and beam up your music library with a little help from the cloud.
iTunes Match, which Apple originally promised to ship by the end of last month, went out to users as part of a software update this week. It stores music tracks in the cloud, and makes them available on any device with iTunes. It can also tidy up old collections of ripped CDs with high-quality versions from Apple's music store.
The $24.99-a-year service is a big step in bringing user music libraries into the Web era, where people want to access their music--not just tracks they've bought through Apple--anywhere and everywhere.
At its core, Match offers two things: matching and storage. The matching bit goes through your library and identifies tracks that correspond with what Apple has in its library. When it finds matches, it gives gives you a licensed copy that can both be re-downloaded in a higher-quality version, and downloaded to your other devices. The second part of the service is that it takes whatever tracks aren't matched, and uploads them to Apple's servers, where they're stored for re-downloading on other devices you own.
The service is notable in that it's the first paid subscription service to come to iTunes since the introduction of the Music Store in 2003. Apple has sold all sorts of content through iTunes since then, but this is a different approach, mixing its media sales business with its recently launched iCloud platform.
For more on iTunes Match, be sure to readon using the service for the first time on both your computer and iOS devices. We've also got a how-to for upgrading your library with higher quality copies of songs that have been matched up, which . Read on for the rest of this week's happenings in Apple land.
Apple Talk Weekly rounds up of some of the top Apple-related news and rumors. It appears every Saturday morning and is curated by CNET's Apple reporter, Josh Lowensohn.
Apple named Arthur D. Levinson as non-executive chairman of its board and added Disney CEO Robert Iger as a board member this week. It was the first board-level reshuffle the company has made since the passing of co-founder Steve Jobs. Levinson's been a board member with Apple since 2000, and Iger's a longtime business partner with Apple and Jobs.
Apple this week quietly killed off Texas Hold'em, the first and only iOS game the company ever offered. The $4.99 card game, which continued the card-playing franchise from the clickwheel iPod era, went on sale just weeks after the launch of the original App Store. Apple pitched it as an example of the kind of things developers could do on its then-fledgeling software development and sales platform.
Developer Applidium this week noted that it's cracked the security protocol Apple uses with Siri, the voice assistant that ships on the iPhone 4S. In a post detailing its findings, the group notes that Apple is sending raw audio data to its servers that's compressed with a special audio codec. Those messages basically shake hands with Apple's servers using identification, which Applidium says can be used by other, non-iPhone 4S devices. The hackery is the latest in efforts to bring Siri to older phones, and other platforms.
Apple's $99 set-top box saw a notable price drop this week, selling for $10 less at both Amazon and Best Buy. Of note, was that Amazon's listing had it as the "2010" model, a curious change given that it was listed as the latest model before the price drop. Apple last updated the hardware in September 2010, but skipped any hardware tweaks this year, short of software updates.
Apple this week quietly changed its AppleCare+ policy to allow buyers to pick it up within 30 days of buying a new iPhone to get it covered. Previously buyers had to buy it at the same time they were buying a new device to get the protection, which is the first extended warranty from Apple to cover accidental damage. Under the new policy, buyers need to come into one of Apple's stores and get their phone looked at ahead of spending $99 on the coverage.
Apple's used nothing but Intel's x86 chips in its Macs since it switched over from the PowerPC architecture, but a new report this week claimed the company could moved to AMD's chips in its MacBook Air line, due to considerably better graphics performance than Intel's chips could pump out. Blog Semiaccurate said Apple scrapped those plans early last year when a move to the AMD chips would result in better graphics power at the expense of poorer systemwide performance.
More signs that Apple's cooking up a 15-inch version of its MacBook Air cropped up this week. A report from the often incorrect DigiTimes said that suppliers are starting to send Apple parts for what they think is a bigger version of the Air, or perhaps even a slimmer redesign of its MacBook Pros. Apple's last big overhaul to the MacBook Pro line was in 2008 in the move to a unibody design.
Fresh rumors from German Mac site Macerkopf.de this week suggested that Apple's readying not just another small iOS update to target battery life, but also an update to Siri that would give the software access to certain hardware features. That includes taking pictures and turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off, the report suggests. Siri was unveiled last month as a "beta" product, with the promise of adjustments and improvements in future releases.
Suppliers delivering iPad 3 displays already? Smaller iPad on the way too?
Rumored supply cutbacks by Apple for parts to build the iPad 2 took an interesting turn this week, with one report saying that the move was to begin work on the iPad 3 instead. Digitimes claimed Samsung Electronics, LG Display, and Sharp were all in the process of shipping out new high-resolution panels to Apple for the construction of a third-generation iPad model, which would begin in January. The same report claimed that Apple was also evaluating 7.85-inch panels, potentially for a smaller version of the iPad.
Citing its "most reliable source," iLounge yesterday put out a number of suggestions for changes coming to Apple's products next year. For the iPhone, that's said to be a move to metal casing, a 4-inch display, and a design that does "not look like the teardrop-shaped version that was widely rumored for release in 2011." For the iPad, which has quickly become one of Apple's top-selling products, the third-generation model is said to be set for a March release (but may be unveiled sooner), and sport a slightly thicker design for the rumored dual-light bar technology that will brighten its higher-resolution display. Finally, the site suggested that the MacBook Pro line is getting a new design next year. "Think thinner," the report said.