Meet iTunes Radio, Apple's long-awaited streaming-music service

Apple is jumping into the streaming music business, taking on everyone from Google to Pandora. It made the announcement at WWDC.

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Paul Sloan is editor in chief of CNET News. Before joining CNET, he had been a San Francisco-based correspondent for Fortune magazine, an editor at large for Business 2.0 magazine, and a senior producer for CNN. When his fingers aren't on a keyboard, they're usually on a guitar. Email him here.
Paul Sloan
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Watch this: Apple rethinks music with new-streaming radio service

After more than a year of negotiations with the music labels and publishers, Apple Monday unveiled its much-talked about free, streaming radio service -- called iTunes Radio -- at WWDC in San Francisco.

"It is the best music player we have ever done," said Apple iTunes chief Eddy Cue, who showed off the product.

Apple's product aims most squarely at Pandora, which has more than 70 million active monthly listeners but is available only in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. iTunes Radio will launch in the U.S. this Fall, but Cue said it will roll out in other countries soon after.

The service is ad-supported, although it will be ad-free to people who subscribe to iTunes Match, the company's cloud-based music library that costs $24.99 a year. It will come built into iOS 7, the iPhone, iPod Touch, Apple TV, and iTunes on Macs and PCs. It comes with 200 stations built by the music team at Apple, and users can follow music that's trending on Twitter. In addition, iTunes Radio is supposed to get better -- meaning, more personalized -- the more you use use it.

With this new service, Apple is entering a crowded field. Streaming music -- from services such as Spotify, Deezer, and Pandora -- make up the fastest growing segment of the recorded music industry, as people want access to music anytime, anywhere.

The launch of iTunes Radio comes after a busy last few weeks of deal making. Cue and his team, long aiming for a summer rollout of the service, only secured deals with the major labels and publishers on Friday.

Google, at its developer's conference last month, launched a Spotify-like subscription music service called Google All Access. Google is also working on a music service tied to YouTube, which has become the dominant place where young people go to hear music.

CNET reported details of iTunes Radio in April.

Update, 1:14 p.m. PT: Adds details on iTunes Radio.