iTunes 11.1 goes live, with Apple's new iTunes Radio in tow

iTunes 11.1 offers a range of new features, including the Pandora-like iTunes Radio. 

The new iTunes is here.

On Wednesday, Apple officially launched iTunes 11.1, the latest version of its venerable music player. iTunes 11.1, which arrives the same day as the new iOS 7, offers a range of new features.

Among them: Podcast Stations that allow you to order and more easily manage your podcast subscriptions; and a Genius Shuffle option that "finds songs with the same vibe and assembles a new playlist for you." 

But the feature that's drummed up the most interest is iTunes Radio, a new streaming-music service. Unlike Spotify, iTunes Radio doesn't allow you to pick and choose individual tracks to play. Think of iTunes Radio as a Pandora clone: You can create a "station" based around a mood (low-key guitar ballads, for instance) or an artist (The Rolling Stones, let's say) and Apple will pipe the tunes straight into your speakers. 

The Cupertino company also says that it will offer "curated" stations from top DJs and musicians. 

The whole thing, of course, is an effort to compete with the extremely popular Pandora, which has about 72 million active users. (Consider that in August alone, users listened to 1.35 billion hours of music on Pandora, an increase of 16 percent from the 1.16 billion hours logged in August of last year.) 

Over at CNET, Paul Sloan notes that an increasing amount of radio listeners are doing their listening online, whether on Pandora or FM/AM station websites.

"And if Apple can steal some of those people and inject new releases into the stations, it has a chance to also sell them more music," Mr. Sloan writes. "At least that's the bet. Sure, you can jump from Pandora to Google Play or iTunes to buy a song, but the process is clunky and, according to music execs, few people do it. With iTunes Radio, by contrast, there's a quick Buy button atop the track you're listening to." 

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