Cloud-based music is nothing new; we’ve discussed alternative cloud-based music in the past. But Google being known for their massive data centers and, well Google being Google, means there is considerable excitement around their music project. It’s warranted. Uploading your music to Google is a bit of pain, but Google Music is useful as soon as your songs are there. Even the uploading process is relatively painless thanks to a well thought out uploading tool. But the real highlight here is the web-based interface.
Web Based Playback
First of all, this service is invite-only right now. You can sign up at Google Music but the invite took a couple of weeks to get to me. It seems to be US only right now, but I’m sure this will change.
Open Google Music for the first time and you’ll be offered a bit of free music. There are some cool songs here. If you’re the sort of person who like entire albums, not individual songs, I’d suggest you say no. After that you’ll have access to the music player. The first thing you’ll see is the latest songs you’ve added to the service:
This can be fun during the uploading process; you’ll see which of your albums made it up most recently. If you want an overview of your entire collection however, I suggest browsing by artist:
As you can see, covers from every album you have from a particular artist show up. This makes visual browsing easy. Click on an artist and you’ll see the albums, as a playlist:
Click a song to start playing. It’s worth pointing out that you can also browse your entire library in one list if you like, and you can create custom playlists. Everything runs so smoothly you’ll forget the service is in a browser.
Another highlight is the Android app for the service:
As you can see, it’s well integrated. Sadly there’s no iOS app yet, but hopefully this is coming.
Okay, so the service is good once your songs are uploaded. How is uploading the songs? Relatively painless. You simply install a piece of software, and tell Google how you want your music synced. Users of iTunes and Windows Media Player can sync with those programs. Alternatively, Google can scan a particular folder.
I’m getting a lot of songs that fail to upload however, most of which seem to be OGG files. This is odd, because Google Music does support OGG files in theory, but there you have it. I’m sure more of these bugs will be worked out as the service continues to grow.
One nice feature – any new music you add to your library or folder will automatically go to Google as well. This means your music collection stays up to date when you make new purchases.
Pros & Cons
The cloud is getting bigger every day, and Google’s at the forefront. When the search company offered a gigabyte of storage with Gmail for free in 2004, it was unheard of. Now they’re letting people upload 20,000 songs to their server and stream them from anywhere.
But Gmail didn’t just change email forever because of the storage offered. They made a few changes to how email works, and consequently made email better. Quick search for all messages and labels are just a few early innovations.
Google Music doesn’t offer anything revolutionary from an interface perspective. It’s very clean and lets you find what you’re looking for quickly. Music on the web hasn’t been done better, but Google Music can also compete head-on with any music player.
I’ll say this – Google Music is better than any of the alternatives I’ve looked into, but only time will tell if people like it better than Apple or Amazon’s offerings in the same realm.
Have you tried Google Music yet? Let us know in the comments below. Also feel free to discuss whether the future of music will be in the cloud or not.