Tuesday, June 11, 2013

iTunes Radio release date, news and features

Apple's foray into the music streaming arena has been a long time coming and today it finally launched iTunes Radio at its WWDC 2013 keynote.

But with the software not set to launch in the US until fall and the rest of the world soon after, will it be too little too late for the tech giant to take on the already bedded in likes of Spotify, Pandora and Rdio?

We take a look at what Apple's iTunes Radio streaming service has going for it:

iRadio by any other name

Happily, Apple rejected the name 'iRadio' that had been bandied about by the internet for so many months before the WWDC unveil.

There were so many reasons why Apple should have shunned the name iRadio. For starters, it's ugly and inelegant and those are two qualities Apple does not go for.

Secondly, multiple trademarks already exist on the name iRadio - there's a music service in Ireland, for example, and an old four-star Wi-Fi radio bearing the name.

Thirdly, the word 'radio' smacks of old tech - and with Apple reportedly ditching skeumorphism in its iOS 7 update, we thought it might do away with such out-dated premises in its music streaming service - obviously a swing and a miss on that one.

Finally, iRadio is a name that the media collectively coined for ease of referring to whatever it is Apple has up its sleeve - and we know from the 'new iPad' debacle that Apple won't be led by the media when it comes to naming conventions.

There's a free, iAd-funded version

Just as an advertising trade mag reported, Apple is looking to use its iAds platform to deliver targeted audio ads to non-premium iTunes iRadio users.

All iTunes users will be able to access iTunes iRadio for free but if you want to ditch the ads, then you'll have to subscribe to iTunes Match.

You can buy music

Of course, Apple's streaming product ties in with iTunes, giving users a barrier-free way to buy songs they've streamed. The 'buy' button prevails on all songs played through iTunes Radio.

One patent points to the possibility that you'll even be able to load up credit and buy cached songs without even having an internet connection - no official word on that from Apple yet, though.

The iRadio release date is later this year...

Although Apple to unveiled the service to devs at WWDC 2013, it won't launch to consumers until 'fall' which is when we'll also see iOS 7 hit our iPhones.

...but only in the US

But that fall release date (or autumn, if you prefer) only applies to those in the US - the rest of the world is still awaiting a vague release date which will follow the American launch.

What did we see in our technological crystal ball ahead of the iTunes Radio reveal? Check out the rumours below:

Music labels are on board

This is all speculation, of course, but several separate sources have claimed that the big three record labels - Sony, Universal and Warner - have all signed on to Apple's upcoming streaming service.

After literally years of negotiations (depending on who you believe), Universal was supposedly the first to crack, with Warner not far behind. Sony was a tougher nut to crack, however - perhaps mindful of its own streaming ambitions - but got on board at the eleventh hour.

Details of the deals are pretty much non-existent at this point, although an aging rumour suggests that Apple is looking to pay out more to rights holders than its major US rival Pandora.

It's kind of delayed

Apple is lagging well behind the competition in the music streaming arena. It's been five years since Spotify took streaming main(ahem)stream and although Apple's managed to retire Ping and bust out iTunes Match in that time, it hasn't really made it into streaming.

That's despite rumours of the service circling for at least a year - the reasons for the hold up are supposedly down to rights holders trying to hardball for a better deal, rather than any technological issues. But worth remembering that this is all speculation and you can't believe everything you read.

Meanwhile, arch-nemesis Google has managed to get in on the action - something that will have the folk over at Cupertino really het up.

Genius is iRadio's not-so-secret secret weapon

Genius, which runs in the background of your iTunes account working out what you're into so it can offer relevant recommendations, is what could set iRadio apart from Spotify and Pandora, which rely far more heavily on social integration and third-party apps to help you find new music to stream and (hopefully, eventually) buy.

For a roundup of the biggest WWDC 2013 keynote highlights, check out the video below:


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