The final release of iTunes 10.5, released earlier Tuesday, does not include support for the $24.99-per-year iTunes Match service. It will become publicly available later this month, along with another update to iTunes.
Developers can test the iTunes Match service with the first beta of iTunes 10.5.1, supplied to them by Apple on Tuesday. The beta is available for both Mac and Windows, and iTunes Match is currently available only to developers in the U.S.
When it launches later this month, iTunes Match will scan users' personal music libraries on their computer for music files that were not purchased through iTunes. Those tracks will then be matched up with Apple's library of over 20 million songs in the iTunes Music Store.
With the annual fee, users will be able to access their library of up to 25,000 songs from any device, and will be able to re-download songs via iTunes in the Cloud. Users will also be able to replace their matched files with higher quality 256Kbps iTunes Plus AAC files, even if the original copy is of lower quality.
Apple's iTunes Match service is different from competing options with Google and Amazon, which require that a user upload their personal library of tracks to remote servers. Apple's method bypasses the need for uploading songs by simply matching the files with its own extensive selection.
For songs that may not be available on iTunes, Apple will also upload those files and remotely host them. The songs will then also be available for users to re-download on another Mac or PC, or on the go with an iPhone or iPad.