iTunes Radio was long rumored, and it was only late last week -- if all the information is correct -- that Apple managed to sign all of the Big Three music labels to the service.
While the name is different, iTunes Radio is basically what rumors have siad it would be. It is a streaming music service along the lines of Pandora. It takes your tastes into account when playing tracks, just as Pandora does with its Music Genome Project technology.
In Apple's case it uses has taken its Genius feature, which scans your music library and recommends artists or tracks based on your listening habits. The difference, of course, is that while Genius builds genre-based playlists based on what you own, iTunes Radio builds playlists based on the entire iTunes music catalog.
At this point, that catalog is well over 26 million tracks strong, with Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group all on board.
The service will be free for U.S. users, with both text and audio ads. However, those who opt in to the $24.99 a year iTunes Match service will be able to use iTunes Radio ad-free. Track skipping is supported, something that was reportedly a point of contention during the negotiations Apple had with its music label partners.
Those who have used Pandora will recognize the way iTunes Radio works. You create your own custom stations, and give a thumbs up if you like a song, which helps iTunes Radio learn what you like. There is a "Buy" button in the corner of every track, which could end up being a great revenue generator for iTunes, and was probably one of the must-haves of major music labels.
For those who have already forgotten, Google introduced Google Play Music All Access last month. The $9.99 per month service mirrors Spotify more than Pandora (the fee is $7.99 a month if you sign up before June 30). It provides access to 18 million songs available in the Play Store. Google plans to release an app for iOS devices to provide access (don't expect the same from Apple).
Pandora, meanwhile, which has about 20 million tracks, offers its basic product for free, but also has a premium level called Pandora One which drops ads, provides access to a desktop app and ups the number of track skips a user is allowed daily, for $3.99.
Apple’s iTunes Radio will arrive along with iOS 7, sometime in the fall. Set for U.S. users initially, it will eventually expand globally. In Addition to iOS devices, Apple TV will get iTunes Radio.