June 10, 2013, 4:05 PM

Apple debuts a music streaming service

ITunes Radio launches weeks after Google’s paid music program.

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Apple Inc. today launched a music streaming service called iTunes Radio. Consumers don’t have to pay to use it because Apple makes them listen to ads, though the service does come with an option without commercials.

Apple is No. 3 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Apple says iTunes Radio has more than 200 stations, though users starting this fall can build stations around favorite songs and bands, including via purchases made on iTunes. Apple didn’t immediately say how many songs consumers can access through the service, but stated that iTunes Radio will offer “thousands of new songs every week.” Consumers can listen to the streamed music on a variety of Apple devices, including iPhones and iPad tablet computers.

“ITunes Radio is an incredible way to listen to personalized radio stations which have been created just for you,” says Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “It’s the music you love most and the music you’re going to love, and you can easily buy it from the iTunes Store with just one click.”

Apple’s move comes weeks after Google Inc. launched a paid music streaming service that will compete in the United States with Pandora and Spotify. Google Play Music All Access will cost $9.99 per month, though Google was offering an early-bird discount.  Consumers already can store their music online via the free Google Music service.

For consumers who sign up for Apple’s iTunes Match—for $24.99 annually, consumers can use Match to store their music on the web, among other tasks—the iTunes Radio service comes without ads, Apple says.

The new Apple streaming service seems unlikely to pose an immediate threat to other such providers, says Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analystat technology research and consulting firm Ovum.

“This is a nice free feature that lots of people will probably try out, but existing Pandora users won't have much reason to switch, especially as the service is still ad-supported unless you have an iTunes Match subscription,” Dawson says. “What would be really disruptive is a service that allowed you to call up specific songs on demand as you can with Spotify, but that would likely have disrupted Apple's existing iTunes business too much.”

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