iTunes Match beta reset on Thursday points to imminent launch

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Apple notified developers on Wednesday evening that it will reset iTunes Match beta accounts on Oct. 27th in order to improve the "overall quality and reliability" of the service ahead of its upcoming public launch.

Throughout the beta period, which began in late August, Apple has periodically warned of data resets for the service. But, given the public release of iOS 5 and iCloud earlier this month, Apple's decision to delete "all current iCloud libraries" of iTunes Match beta testers on Thursday is believed to indicate its imminent launch.

Developers are told to turn off iTunes Match on their computers and iOS devices to prepare for the wipe. Apple also reminded them to backup all information they have stored in iCloud.

iTunes Match will cost $24.99 per year and provides a convenient scan and match service that will determine which songs on a user's hard drive are also available on the iTunes Music Store. Those songs will then be added accessible from iCloud.

Apple touts the fact that the scan will take just minutes, compared to weeks of upload time for rival music services from Amazon and Google. The service will also offer increased quality by providing 256 Kbps AAC downloads even when the matched files have a lower bitrate.

"If you want all the benefits of iTunes in the Cloud for music you haven’t purchased from iTunes, iTunes Match is the perfect solution. It lets you store your entire collection, including music you’ve ripped from CDs or purchased somewhere other than iTunes, for just $24.99 a year," Apple says of the upcoming service.

A switch to activate iTunes Match has already appeared within iOS 5, but after activating it, users are prompted to enter the Apple ID associated with an iTunes Match subscription. Apple has yet to begin offering public subscriptions for the service; the company has said that it will go live by the end of October.

The service will initially be available only in the U.S., but Apple is working to bring it to other markets.

Though he initial iTunes Match beta appeared to instantly stream music, Apple has clarified that the service does not technically support streaming. Music files must first be "stored" on an iOS device before being played.