Apple may already be winning the war over streaming, we just don’t know it yet. And part of the reason is that streaming and downloading are slowly becoming the same thing. Because whether a song started as a download or not, paid or otherwise, may simply be a trivial detail for tomorrow’s music fan. 

All of which brings us to the freshly-updated iTunes 11, released on Thursday. Looks are important, but don’t let the pretty interface fool you. Because beyond all the sanded edges, updated features and interface upgrades, Apple is also introducing significant iCloud enhancements with this release.

Here, go make love to this. It’s beautiful.

But know that the real seduction is happening above you and the bed you’ve been building for about a decade.

But wait: iCloud sucks, right? Yes it does, right now, but this is a company pouring billions into this infrastructure with aims to ultimately supplant and marginalize services like Spotify (which currently rocks, right now). And with 11, there’s progress towards world domination: as part of the release, every song, album, or movie downloaded on the iTunes Store is automatically uploaded into the iCloud. And, Apple is offering enhancements to make localized access (sort of the equivalent to Spotify’s cacheing) across devices like the iPad and iPhone.

All of which raises an interesting question about the future of music. Because for all the smashing proclamations about Spotify, most users already have thousands of their favorite songs sitting in a collection somewhere, cloud-enabled or otherwise. These are the songs they love, so why not blend them into a broader, cloud-enabled collection where the origins of the tracks themselves are a mere detail?
What’s the difference, in the end?