Google Music, the streaming music answer to Amazon, MOG and Rdio, is here. Like it's competitors, you can access music in the cloud and stream it to devices. But unlike MOG and Rdio, you can only play what you upload.
Google Music is less streaming music service, and more storage locker. You upload your tracks using a desktop client for Windows and Mac, and you can manage those tracks via a simple, clean UI on your computer, smartphone or tablet. Google says they're working on a music store (where it sounds like they'll be selling songs a la carte), but they're still hammering out details with a couple of labels.
And sure, you don't get unlimited access to millions of tracks right off the bat, but if you already have a good library, you get access to the music you want. Here's a look at some of its features:
• Library Upload: With the Music Manager app, you can upload your iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries with one click. You can also upload by file or folder.
• Offline Listening: It's a pretty standard feature, but Google's gives this feature a neat twist by automatically caching songs you've recently listened to. I'd also love to see them do this for most listened songs. And of course, you can also cache specific songs you select.
• Seamlessness: Any change you make to your Google Music library on one device is automatically pushed to other devices.
• Playlists: Once you upload your tracks to the Google Music cloud, you can play around with it just like it was in a music app. That means playlists which automatically sync across all your connected devices. They also have a smart playlist feature called instant mix, which will automatically build a list for you based on one song. It's like iTunes' genius or Pandora's recommendation bot. Google says that they have servers actually listening to the songs to make their playlist selection.
A couple of additional notes...
• APIs: Google Music will play nice with APIs, as evidenced by the Android @ Home demo during the Google IO keynote. In that demo, music from the Google Music cloud was fed to Tungsten, a little android-powered box connected to a pair of speakers, creating a streaming solution for the home.
• Uploads: Until they get a deal in place with labels, your own uploaded files will be the ones you listen to. That means the bitrate is only as good as your library. However it will support up to 320kbps.
• Unauthorised Uploads: When asked, the Android team said that they will remove any tracks that are violating copyrights.
Google Music is currently in beta, but if you're in the US, you can request to get early access right here (and if selected, you can upload 20,000 tracks for free! FREEEEEEEEEE!) [Google Music]