Music Beta by Google
Google's long-awaited cloud music service has arrived. It's called Music Beta; it's free (for now, and currently invite-only); and after giving it a test-drive, I'm happy to report that the whole system is fairly smooth.
From the perspective of the end-user, the payoff of Music Beta is to have your entire music collection in the cloud, available to stream instantly from any browser or Android-based device (phone, tablet, Google TV). Out of the box, a new Android smartphone or tablet can tap into your music collection within minutes, with no computer syncing required. That's pretty cool, and it's something that iOS users can't brag about (yet).
There is a catch, though. Unlike Amazon's Cloud Drive service (or similar online music lockers), Music Beta users can't download their collections back down to a different computer, making it a poor choice for anyone looking for a solution that will distribute their music across multiple machines. Android users can store some music temporarily in their device memory for offline listening, but permanently downloading is not an option.
Another interesting difference between Google's service and Amazon's is that one of the first setup pages for Music Beta allows you to select what genres of free music you'd like Google to seed into your collection. Since these tracks can't be downloaded back down to your computer, they're essentially streaming-only. After selecting Indie Rock and Hip-Hop from the free music genre listings, we noticed new tracks in our collection from artists such as Black Tambourine, E-40, and our personal favorite, Kriss Kross.
To see what else is involved in setting up and configuring Music Beta, check out our step-by-step hands-on gallery.