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iTunes Match to offer music streaming

Apple's cloud music service is now in beta testing, revealing you'll be able to stream your tunes as well as downloading them.

iTunes Match, the upcoming Apple tool that lets you store your music in the cloud, has gone into beta testing, revealing that the service will let you stream your music as well as download it from Apple's magical hard drive in the sky.

Here's how it works. If you're willing to shell out $25 (roughly £15) for a year's subscription, iTunes Match lets you upload up to 25,000 tracks to Apple's cloud storage, freeing up your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch's precious hard drive space.

That's not just the music you've bought from iTunes either -- Match should take MP3s you've acquired from other services, tracks you've ripped from CDs, even music files you may have come across by less-than-legal means.

Tracks you've stored will appear in your device's Music app with a little cloud logo alongside them. Tap that, and the song will download to your device for offline listening. But if you simply tap the track, you can stream the tune instead. Natty.

The method for streaming and downloading appears blissfully simple, and makes iTunes Match a sorely tempting proposition. We desperately want it to come to the UK, but sadly there's no word yet on whether that's going to happen soon. We've heard the UK release is delayed until 2012.

Streaming music wasn't something Apple talked about when it announced iTunes Match along with iCloud back in June, so this is a pleasant surprise. That is, if we ever get it. To make things even clearer, below we've embedded a video from Insanely Great Mac that shows iTunes Match in action.

Are you excited? Is this game, set and match for Spotify? Sing it in the comments section, or on our Facebook wall.