Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

Summary: After a day with the Google Music Beta, I'm convinced it was rushed out the door too early. Even for a beta, this combination of software and service is too buggy for me to take seriously for now.

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On Monday, while Steve Jobs was onstage introducing iTunes in the cloud, I got an e-mail from Google that included an invitation to the Google Music Beta.

Coincidence? Maybe, but my money says this timing was deliberate.

I thought at the time that it looked like a panic response from Google to Apple’s iTunes announcements. After a day with the beta, I’m even more convinced that this software-and-service package was rushed to market.

Google Music Beta made a positive initial impression when I installed it yesterday. It consists of two lightweight programs, a browser-based music player and a music uploader that runs as a background task. I installed both Windows and Mac versions.

Music Player looks more “designed” than most Google projects (which typically strike me as being assembled, like something from Ikea). But the Music Player is useless until you upload your tracks, so I concentrated on Music Manager. And that's where Google Music went off the rails.

I was impressed with the list of formats that Google Music supports. In addition to MP3 and AAC, it also supports Windows Media Audio (WMA) and the lossless FLAC format. I have a lot of tracks in the latter formats, so that’s very good news. It also supports uploads from Windows Media Player, from iTunes, and from the My Music folder on a Windows PC.

I told Music Manager to upload my Windows Media Audio library around 2:30PM yesterday; when I checked on its progress this morning, here’s what I saw:

Yikes.

After 19 hours of chugging away, only 1,654 tracks had been uploaded. At that pace, it would take nearly two weeks of round-the-clock uploading to get my entire collection into Google’s cloud servers.

But that’s not going to happen, based on the staggering number of errors I saw for this collection. Why were 21,300 tracks skipped? Clicking that number fired up a troubleshooting tool.

The more I look at the list, the less sense it makes, and the more I see failures on top of failures.

For example, Google says it failed to upload 206 tracks because of “DRM in file.” But I have never purchased a single DRM-protected track, and inspection of the troublesome files shows they’re DRM-free.

Two tracks failed because Music Manager thinks there’s “No music in file.” They play just fine here.

The two “unsupported format” files are bonus-track downloads from Radiohead, both in WAV format. OK, I need to convert those.

But what on earth were those 13,862 “Error uploading file” messages? There’s a mix of MP3 and WMA files in that group, most of them either purchased from Amazon or eMusic or ripped from CD. That’s roughly half the collection not available.

And to add insult to injury, my collection is just too big, so some 5000 tracks are just going to be skipped. And yet the Tijuana Brass Christmas album (a holiday classic that is played, at most, once a year) was among the first to arrive at Google’s servers. Awesome.

I’m completely baffled by the message at the bottom of the troubleshooting window, which says “Only version 11 of Windows Media Player is supported.” That’s the version from Windows Vista, which was also available as an update in Windows XP.

Windows 7 includes Windows Media Player 12. But that troubleshooting message doesn’t say anything about versions higher than 11. So is it supported or not?

Then there’s the message that says “Norton may be blocking the application.” It even includes a link that promises “further instructions,” which would be extremely helpful if the link actually went somewhere instead of to a 404 error page.

And I won’t even mention the fact that, on Windows 7, I couldn’t get Google Music to play at all in Internet Explorer 9, although it worked perfectly in Chrome. Hmmm. [Update: I tried Google Music a few hours later, with a different album, and this time it played successfully.]

When I mentioned these Google Music experiences on Twitter earlier today, I heard from a few people who had had no problems, but several others said they had experienced similar woes trying to upload tracks to Google's cloud. 

All in all, Google Music is, to put it charitably, a work in progress. Apple's announcement of a "scan and match" feature for iTunes in the cloud makes uploading even a medium-sized music collection seem as tedious and error-prone as the process inevitably will be.

I’m sure Google will improve this service over time; they don't have any choice if they want to compete.

But I've seen enough to convince me that it needs more work, so I'll set it aside for a closer look at the end of summer. By that time, Apple’s new iTunes should be online and Microsoft will be ready to show off what it’s doing with music in Windows 8. I expect Amazon will have some things to say in the fall as well.

So long for now, Google Music. See you again in September.

Topics: Google, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Security, Software, Windows

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66 comments
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  • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

    first of all, way to be a MSFT loser and have your stuff in .WMA, second, i'm sorry ZD isn't paying you a living salary that you can afford more than 8,000 songs.
    mikehill33
    • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

      @mikehill33 I guess you missed the error where it said he had more than the 20,000 songs allowed. Also, considering Ed is primarily a MICROSOFT blogger (hell, check the title of the blog), why shouldn't he use WMA?
      Aerowind
    • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

      @mikehill33

      What is wrong with .WMA? Would you say the same about those who use .AAC?
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

        @Cylon Centurion
        Frankly, yes.
        30otnix
      • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

        @Cylon Centurion AAC is a standardized format (ISO and IEC), while WMA is a proprietary format that can be licensed by 3rd parties.
        rbgaynor
      • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

        @Cylon Centurion

        WMA = dead format
        Alan Smithie
      • ISO standards

        WMA is proprietary, AAC is ISO standard (as was MP3).
        Mark Str
    • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

      @mikehill33
      Wow. I can see you put your full intellect into this insightful response to the article. Perhaps you should restrict your comments until your IQ reaches double digits?
      meelder
    • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

      @mikehill33 You're an a$$h0Le
      sackbut
      • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

        @sackbut - So say we all
        klockheed
    • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

      @mikehill33 Are you okay? He is a Microsoft blogger commenting on a Google Music service which IS still in beta.
      jessiethe3rd
    • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

      @mikehill33 By immediately calling him a loser you lost all credibility what so ever.
      non-biased
  • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

    I would love to know in what world does anyone think putting a music library online make sense?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

      @Cylon Centurion
      I'm with you Cylon. I can't fathom it at all. Especially when you will possibly have to pay to stream it down to your mobile devices.
      MacDuffie
      • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

        @MacDuffie

        Well, I was thinking more along the lines of bandwidth issues. In most places, it's not nearly big enough to support this type of service.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

      @Cylon Centurion
      I like the idea. Then you can access your tunes from any device as long as it has access to "the cloud".

      Which is all well and good until the RIAA comes along and demands to inspect Google's servers.
      TBone2k
      • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

        @TBone2k

        It's a good idea *in theory*, but as Ed has shown us, bandwidth is a major problem facing cloud music.

        Remember the days of the REAL player? Remember "Buffering... 75%.... Buffering....". Yeah, that comes to mind here.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • I Put my music online

      @Cylon Centurion

      I like to be able to get to my music wherever I may be in the world. So, I put my NAS online.
      Your Non Advocate
      • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

        @facebook@...

        That is something I would love to do someday.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Google Music proves why it deserves the beta label

        @facebook@... just pray your link doesn't go down
        deaf_e_kate