Google Music Beta is a service that allows you to upload music to the “cloud” (Google’s Servers) and access it from any computer. Right now it is available through invite only, so you have to go to music.google.com and request an invite. Once they respond to that invite you can log in as you would normally log into your Gmail account.
There are some free music tracks with the service, so I accepted those into my library. The interface is pretty basic, as it is with all Google services. At the top of the screen you have links to other Google services and the ability to search your library. At the top right there is a link to add music or “Get Android App”, for Android users.
The left hand side of the screen shows your library, free songs, songs you have rated “Thumbs Up”, mixes and playlists. You can see files by song, artist, genre or album. At the bottom of the screen are the playback, track skip and pause button, and the volume. It is all very simple, very basic, just like all of Google’s other services.
There is no facility to upload music off of this page! A true cloud service would not require you to download an application onto the device you want to upload music from. This is okay for personal computers, but imagine the headache that someone would have with an Android device trying to upload to Google! This is where the service will ultimately fail. Google has to keep in mind that when people upload on email, social networking sites, or any other website the functionality to upload is already built into the site. If you are going to download a client to do your uploads, it is only because of the added functionality that the client brings, as is the case with YouTube, or Google Video when it was still around.
Google, I do not want to use a download manager to add music! I want to be able to purchase tracks directly, using Google Music Beta, so I do not have to transfer the song to your servers. I do not want to have to download a song from somewhere else and then go back into Google Music Beta to upload it again, that is just retarded. This is where Google has dropped the ball.
If you go onto Bing Music you can actually purchase tracks through the site or listen to them. I can go to Bing Music, click on Adele and listen to the music right there for free. If I want unlimited plays I can buy a Zune Pass for $14.99 a month.
When you download the Music Manager program and run it your account is authenticated again. There is a disclaimer that suggests that you only upload music that you have the rights to upload to the server. Put in your username and password for Google. There are also options that allow you to stay signed in, and to send crash reports to Google. It then asks you where you want to upload the music from, iTunes, Windows Media Player, the default folder where music is stored on Windows or another folder.
I checked Windows Media Player. It then asked me if I wanted to upload music automatically when it is stored to Windows Media Player, I checked yes. It then scanned folders associated with Windows Media Player that I am using to store music. It found less than 10 songs, so I went back a step because I have more songs than what in Windows Media Player.
So then I chose My Music folder. Again, it asked me if I wanted to automatically update Google Music when that folder is updated, I chose yes. This time more than 100 songs were found. It gave me the option to listen to music while it was updating in the background. If you shut down your computer while it is updating in the background it will start off where it left off the next time you turn your computer on. So keep in mind that the Music Manager is a program that runs in the background. It then opened itself back up in Internet Explorer. So if you do not use your default browser for this process when you first go to the site, your default browser will be opened upon completion of the process. When I came back to Music Beta, my tracks were available. I closed out of Internet Explorer, went back to Chrome and had to click on Recently Added to find my tracks.
Overall this is a great service if you have a hard drive full of songs that you need to manage in an effective manner. Eventually that hard drive is going to crash. Back up all of your songs using this service. Right now the service tops out at 20,000 songs. That should be more than enough for most music junkies. This is an efficient way to automatically manage your files that programs like Windows Media Player do not offer. Allow Music Manager to run in the background and sync your tracks, and they automatically appear on Music Beta and if you have an Android powered device they can automatically appear there as well.
It isn’t a perfect service though. If you chose iTunes or Windows Media Player it should be able to find tracks that are associated with those services intuitively. Instead, if you do not use the default file locations that those programs use it will not know where to find the files. If you know where your files are located you will have to tell it where those files are at, regardless of how your files are stored. Music Manager is a good option to have, but again, users may not necessarily want a client running on their computer in the background. People with slower computers running Windows XP or Windows Vista have just one more program to worry about.
It didn’t upload a .wav file because those are not supported. You can chose the bandwidth available for uploading to the fastest possible, or as little as 128kbps. It isn’t clear what the bit rate is of the songs, though they are supposed to play back in 320k. The Music Manager does not have to start when the computer does, and you can tell it to manually upload music. The shuffle option is interesting, as is the automatic playlist option which creates playlists based off one song. One last thing, music is cached, so if your connection goes down it can still play music, but it is not clear if it comes from what is stored in your browser’s cache or where the music is stored temporarily, and this can be done from devices that the music was not uploaded from. Right now it is in beta, which means it is free. Get your invite and test this service out now and let us know what you think about it.