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Apple releases iTunes 10.5.1 with public launch of iTunes Match

Apple on Monday publicly released iTunes 10.5.1, marking the first time that users can access the new $24.99-per-year iTunes Match service.

The new version of iTunes is now available for download on both Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. Upon installing, users can access the iTunes Match service, where they can subscribe and receive the ability to re-download songs on other devices like an iPhone or iPad.

After installing iTunes 10.5.1, users can subscribe to iTunes Match through the iTunes Music Store. A link is available on the right side of the screen where iTunes Match is highlighted with a blue icon that reads "new."

iTunes Match gives users the benefits of iTunes in the Cloud with songs that weren't purchased from iTunes. Built right into the iTunes software and the Music application on iOS devices, it lets users store their entire collection, including music that was imported from CDs or purchased somewhere other than iTunes.

At a cost of $24.99 per year, iTunes will determine which songs in a user's collection are available on the iTunes Store. Any music that is matched is automatically added to iCloud.

Any songs that can't be matched are uploaded, allowing users to access their entire collection, including any content that may not be available for purchase on the iTunes Store.

When a user's music library has been uploaded and matched to iCloud, it can be re-downloaded on other devices on the go. Apple also offers users the ability to upgrade their songs to 256Kbps AAC DRM-free quality files, even if the original copy was of lower quality.

The public release of iTunes 10.5.1 comes only a few days after Apple supplied developers with a third beta of the software. Developers have been privately testing the iTunes Match service prior to its public launch.

The launch of iTunes Match is officially a few weeks late, as Apple originally promised that the service would debut by the end of October. But while in beta testing, iTunes Match had a number of problems scanning and matching some users' libraries, prompting Apple to conduct numerous resets to iron out the kinks.