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Apple's iTunes Match beta supports streaming music playback

The developer preview of Apple's forthcoming iTunes Match service for iCloud contains early support for streaming music, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apple seeded a new iTunes 6.1 beta with iTunes Match functionality to developers late Monday evening.

A source testing out the service has told AppleInsider that, though the service is "still really buggy," he is able to play some iCloud-based iTunes Match songs over Wi-Fi on an iPad 2. The feature appears to be in its early stages, as some songs on the tipster's device remain "greyed out."

After iTunes Match has been activated, an iCloud column appears to the right of the song name in the browser pane of iTunes. The music player will automatically default to streaming songs, but by clicking a download icon, users can store the music locally on their computer.

Insanely Great Mac has posted a pair of video demonstrations of the iTunes Match streaming feature on a Mac and an iPhone.

Developers testing iTunes Match have been warned by Apple to keep a backup of their music libraries before signing up for the service, as any content copied to its servers during the beta may be erased.

iTunes Match cost $24.99 a year and supports up to 25,000 songs from a user's library that Apple will "scan and match" with offerings from the iTunes Music Store. Songs not found in the iTunes system will be automatically uploaded to iCloud. The service works with up to 10 iTunes PCs and iOS devices, but only five of the devices can be computers.

The company boasts that the service will take just minutes to run, as opposed to "weeks" spent uploading songs to rival services from Amazon and Google. Apple unveiled iTunes Match this June during the Worldwide Developers Conference. The service is scheduled to arrive this fall alongside iCloud and iOS 5.

Prior to Apple's announcement of iCloud and iTunes Match, reports suggested that the company was renegotiating streaming licenses for music.