After many months of rumors and a year after its first showcasing, Google Music is here. The mythical music service, officially dubbed Music Beta by Google, is now available to some users in the US.
Despite all the hype and buildup, the service itself is lacking and can barely compete with existing ones from competitors. It's also a step down from what Google showed a year ago.
Those that have managed to get their hands on an invitation also complain that the product is rather slow and confusing and doesn't feel like something that came from Google.Music Beta by Google is a music cloud locker service with streaming
As has been mostly revealed
, what Google is launching now is a basic cloud locker service. Users get to upload their tracks to the Google cloud and can then stream them to any device they want.
In essence, it's a cloud storage or backup service with the added utility of being able to stream the songs you upload. The big drawback however is that users are not allowed to download those songs once they're up in the cloud. Amazon Cloud Player vs Music Beta
The service is similar to Amazon's recently launched Cloud Player and Cloud Drive services
, but is more limited. On the one hand, Music Beta is strictly about music, Amazon's Cloud Drive enables users to upload any files including music.
On the other, Google allows users to upload up to 20,000 songs and doesn't have a strict storage limit, as opposed to Amazon's 5 GB of free storage. Music Beta is free for now, but this could very well change.Desktop upload app, web and mobile streaming and offline playback
Users have to download and install an application to upload their songs. For large collections and slow internet connections, this could take hours or even days.
Once the music is in the could though, you can listen to it via any browser, as long as you have Flash, and via the latest update to the Android Music app. The Android app also enables users to cache songs for offline listening.
One of the touted features of the Google music service is smart playlists, it can generate a playlist from just one song populating it with other tunes from your collection that sound the same.Music Beta is free but invite-only for nowMusic Beta by Google
is only available to a select few and only in the US. You can request an invitation and you will be notified when it becomes available for you.
As the name implies, Music Beta is just the first iteration and Google hopes to add more features and capabilities in time. Those that have tried it out say that it certainly feels like a beta and that it needs some more polish before it can become useful, even with its limited functionality.Licensing issues kept Google from launching anything for a year
So why does a product that has been in the works for more than a year and for which a working demo was displayed at last year's Google I/O conference feel like a rush job?
Well, because it is a rush job. Google hasn't spent the last year perfecting the product, it spent it negotiating with the music labels. And the irony is, it was all for nothing, in the end Google went ahead with a product that didn't require licensing from the labels.
Google could have launched the service it did today a year ago and it would have worked the same.
But the company had more ambitious plans, it wanted a music store, integrated into the Android Marketplace, to go along with the streaming service.Music Beta requires no licensing but this severely limits the service
The lack of licensing also hurts the product launched today. To get around copyright issues, Google says that its music service is just like an external hard drive, it's just a storage space for users to keep their own songs. This is the same route Amazon took.
Technically, this means that actual copies of the songs users own are uploaded and stored. Music Beta then streams from those very copies. This should make it safe for Google to store the songs without any legal worries.
However, if it had licensing, Google could have simply kept one copy of all the songs it licensed and then stream from those copies to all the users. This would not only be a much more efficient use of the Google cloud storage, it also meant that users could rely on always having the best quality and accurately tagged songs.
What's more, they wouldn't have had to wait for hours for the songs to upload, the app would have simply looked at the songs the users had on their drives and only sync that list.
Google may still be working on a deal with the labels. If and when it manages to strike one, Google Music should become significantly better, in the meantime it's not a product that Google should be particularly proud of.