Google, which launched its scan-and-match locker service in Europe in November, today (Dec. 18) introduced the service in the U.S., having secured the necessary copyrights to do so from the three major labels, as well as some independent music labels.
The California technology giant, in a post announcing the news, said the locker service lets users stream up to 20,000 songs in high audio quality.
"Our new music matching feature gets your songs into your online music library on Google Play much faster," the company said. "We'll scan your collection and quickly rebuild it in the cloud - all for free. And we'll stream your music back to you at up to 320 kbps."
Google is playing catch-up with Apple and Amazon, both of which already offer similar scan-and-match locker services that allows users to stream music they own without having to upload the songs to the companies' servers -- a process that could take days depending on how many songs they own.
Prior to Tuesday, Google users had to upload their library to the company's servers, but the process happened in the background as people used their computers for other tasks. As a result, many did not notice how much time it took. Still, the ability to scan a user's music library and mirror that collection with licensed versions that Google already has erases the advantage that Apple and Amazon had with that feature.
Google's service now has two competitive advantages (see comparison graph below) to its rivals. First, it is free to use, whereas Apple and Amazon both charge $24.99 a year. Secondly, Google streams the music at 320 kilobits per second, a higher quality compression rate than the 256 kbps used by Apple and Amazon.
The three services also differ in how many songs they allow users to "store" in their servers. Google lets each user access up to 20,000 songs from its service. iTunes' limits each user to 25,000 songs, whereas Amazon has a 250,000-song limit, ten times larger than Apple's quota and twelve-and-a-half times that of Google.
Google launched both its download store and its licensed locker service in U.K., France, Germany and Spain on Nov. 13. Two weeks earlier, Google announced it had secured a licensing deal with Warner Music Group for both downloads and a scan-and-match locker service and would "soon" be launching both worldwide.
The company, which in March said more than 4 million people used its music locker, declined to name which labels had agreed to its scan-and-match service. It also has not updated its user numbers.
Here's a quick chart of how the three competing services compare: