Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm.

Apple’s new iTunes streaming isn’t actually streaming

Peter Kafka reports that Apple’s forthcoming iTunes Match streaming option isn’t technically a stream — it’s actually a progressive download, which lets you listen while it’s downloading. Why? Not because of licensing issues — Apple has streaming rights — but because of reliability and product strategy reasons, according to Kafka:

Part of it is that Apple doesn’t trust the current telecom ecosystem to handle on-demand streaming of huge library files — look how much trouble AT&T has had with the iPhone to date. But the other part is that Apple wants its users to think of entertainment as something they consume on Apple device — as opposed to the Google and Amazon approach, which lets consumers grab anything they want on any device with a browser.

For users, the difference should be invisible. If anything, it may work better this way than if it were a true stream. An analogy is that this is how YouTube videos play — via progressive download, which you play from a cache — versus Netflix movies, which are a true stream.

Update: And, of course, this has set off a firestorm of people arguing that this is streaming. I’m going to sit the rest of this one out.