Google yesterday announced the immediate availability of Music Beta, a new cloud based music service that shows many parallels to Amazon's Cloud Drive service that has been rolled out earlier this year.
Google Music Beta in its current stage offers storage space in the cloud to store up to 20,000 songs. Plans are to turn the service into a paid service after the beta. Google did not comment on pricing at all, or if they will be offering a free basic plan next to the paid Music beta plans. They could design the service similar to how Picase is offering free limited space for all users, and more space and options for paying customers. For now, Music Beta is free, but you should keep in mind that this might change in the future.
Music Beta currently is all about hosting and streaming of music. You wont find an integrated music shop on Music Beta, mostly because there have not been any agreements with record labels as of yet. Google mentioned that they are in talks with major record labels. For now, if you use the Shop for Artist feature you are taken to a media portal on the Google website instead. That's a step backwards compared to Amazon's offering which offers access to a complete mp3 store on their site.
On the music side of things, mp3, aac, flac and wma files are supported. All other music formats are not supported, which may be especially problematic for Apple users who may have part of their music collection in m4p and m4a format. Flac users need to know that Google will re-encode their files to 320 kbps mp3s.
Computers and Android devices can currently be connected to Google Music. There is an eight device limit for streaming in place though, which means that you may need to de-authorize devices regularly if you got more than eight devices, or devices in the authorization list that you no longer posses.
How do you get music on Music Beta?
PC users need to download Music Manager, a proprietary software that can import music from iTunes, the music folder or any other folder on the computer's storage devices. The software can sync music that you add to your iTunes library with Music Beta automatically.
One severe limitation is that you cannot customize the music selection. Say you have 10,000 songs on iTunes. You cannot pick songs that you want uploaded to Music Beta. If you select iTunes in the Music Manager, all songs will be uploaded. Your only option is to use the other folder option during start up and pick each folder manually. That's uncomfortable especially if the music library is large.
Another limitation is that music cannot be played in Music Manager. That's bad if you need to check out songs before you sync them with Music Beta.
I cannot say for sure, but it appears as if the Music Manager is the only way to transfer music to Google Music Beta. Apps are available for Android and tablet PCs but those appear to miss uploading options (correct me if I'm wrong please).
Music that is online can be streamed to any connected and supported device. Caching is used on Android so that recently played music becomes available offline as well.
There is no option to download or share music.
Music Beta is an invite only service currently. Users from the United States can request an invite here. Users from outside the country can use proxy or vpn connections to outsmart the country detection on site.
Still, you need to wait until you receive an invitation to Google Music Beta before you can make actual use of the service.
Music Beta in its current stage has several limitations that will keep many users from signing up for the service. Among them the restriction to US-only users, no music shop integration, the mediocre Music Manager, streaming only and the prospect that the service will turn commercial after beta.
Especially the concentration on streaming may be seen negatively, considering that many cell phone data plans are not exactly generous in the free Megabyte department.
Have you watched the keynote or received an invite yet? What's your take on the service in its current form?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.