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English: The icon used on iTunes for the app

Pandora named former Microsoft executive Brian McAndrews as their new CEO today, just as Apple is launched their competing iTunes Radio service today. And since iTunes Radio will be built into iTunes, the service will be in the hands of practically every one of those users come September 18th.

Pandora has been gathering info since 2000 on the listening habits and preferences of its users, and relies on the Music Genome Project to help custom tailor its recommendations.   Apple however has the purchase history of every iTunes user at its disposal, not to mention a few years of data now from its “Genius” playlist feature that’s been quietly monitoring playback habits.

If you do want to remove ads, however, a year of Pandora One will cost you $36. iTunes Radio seems to have a similar set up, with free ad-supported streaming and no listening cap.   However, a year of ad-less iTunes Radio will be only $24.99 (no doubt priced directly to undercut Pandora), and will include a year of iTunes Match service which backs-up a user’s iTunes library to the cloud and allows streaming access (even for songs you didn’t purchase from iTunes).

You can be sure that Pandora won’t sit idly by as iTunes Radio begins to gain popularity, and a new challenger will hopefully drive innovation among these services.   All the advantages above also won’t mean anything if the taste-matching ability of iTunes Radio isn’t up to par, although based on this early review from Fast Times, it seems Pandora has legitimate reason for concern.