Music Beta, Google's new cloud music service, appeared in public for the first time Tuesday, after being introduced at the company's I/O Conference for developers. The site, at music.google.com, includes an introductory video about the service.
The service arrives just six weeks after Amazon's Cloud Drive and Cloud Player but appears to be a more functional, slicker tool for storing and playing music. Drag-and-drop functions appear to be fast and seamless. Creating playlists manually or through Instant Mix, a playlist creator tool, appear to be equally fast and easy.
Music Beta is less expensive than Cloud Drive - for now. "At least while it's in beta, the service is free," said Google's Paul Joyce in his keynote presentation of Music Beta. Free access comes with an allowance of up to 20,000 files in an account. Cloud Drive offers the first 5GB (good for about 1,000 songs) and charges $100 a year for 100 GB (enough to hold 20,000 songs). Amazon gives 20GB of free storage for a year with the purchase of an album download.
Joyce walked the audience through the service on the web, tablet and mobile, showed the main features and displayed how music and playlists can easily be accessed from any Internet connected device. "No wires, no painful syncing," he said. "Your music collection is stored in the cloud, so you can stop worrying about where your songs are and start enjoying your music."
Here are some of the takeaways from Joyce's presentation:
-- The Music Manager tool, available for both Windows and Mac, allows the user to add songs to Music Beta by selecting specific folders (such as iTunes folder). All playlists, play counts and ratings are added to Music Beta along with the music files.
-- The layout will familiar to anybody who has used a media player such as iTunes. Albums and songs are listed in the main body while playlists and other folders and links are arranged vertically on the left side of the screen. The home page shows recently played and recently added music. In the album view, the user can browse by songs, artists and genres.
-- To hear music while offline, Music Beta offers two ways to allow the user to save certain songs or albums on the mobile device. First, it caches the most recently played music so the user doesn't need to do anything to access a certain number of songs (just how many songs are cached was not mentioned). Second, the user can select albums, artists and playlists and upload the songs to the mobile device.
Music Beta will be rolled out in stages, said Joyce. Invitations to Music Beta are being given to Google developers today. Afterwards Google will offer the service in the U.S. on an invite-only basis. Google is taking requests for invitations at the Music Beta web site. It has not given a timeline for the invite-only phase or the service's beta phase.