Google Music Beta: Cloud music done right

A first look at the new Google Music Beta. Not many bells and whistles, but it's a great start.
Written by Scott Raymond, Inactive on

Recently I had the pleasure of receiving an invite to the Google Music Beta program. Initial reviews of the product were less than favorable. However, very soon afterward, Google released an update to the software that seems to have improved things substantially.

If your Android device doesn't have the new music app, it's a simple matter of downloading it from the Android Market. Google provides and impressive amount of storage for the beta: users can currently upload up to 20,000 songs.

Getting set up is fairly straightforward. Using your existing Google account, you download and install the desktop application. You can configure it to pull your music from Windows Media Player, iTunes, or simply define a directory full of music files. Your system then uploads your music in the background--and you can even limit the upload speed so it doesn't throttle your internet connection.

Once you have music files stored online, you can start listening to them right away. You can play them over the internet through the Android app, and you can also play through the web-based app. You also have the option of configuring the player to download music from your account as it plays so it can be cached for offline usage.

Admittedly, when playing music over a smartphone connection, your available bandwidth is going to affect the quality of the playback. If you have 4G connectivity, or even 3G, there should be no problem. I would not recommend trying to play music over a lower speed connection. Also, keep in mind that this will count towards your data usage if you do not have an unlimited data plan.

There is no facility for purchasing music through the service yet. It is primarily a type of store and forward cloud service for your existing music. I have several thousand songs from my CD collection online with the Google Music service now, and I find it to be a simple, elegant music storage system.

This is the kind of service where the cloud really shines, providing immediate access to data--in this case, music--to any location where you have internet access. All you need is a web browser or the Android app installed on your smartphone or tablet, and you're good to go.

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