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As expected, Google has finally launched its music service, though it's currently an invitation-only beta available just in the US. Rather than being called Google Music, it's going by the odd name of Music Beta by Google. While it's in beta, it will be free.
The new service lets you upload your personal music collection to the cloud for streaming to your computer and Android devices (up to 20,000 songs allowed). Your music and playlists are automatically kept in sync, so if you create a new playlist on one device (computer, phone, or tablet), it's available on all the rest.
Most importantly, you can listen to music when you're offline: Google automatically stores your most recently played music on your Android device and you can choose to make specific albums or playlists available when you're not connected (quality currently unknown). There's also a familiar feature called Instant Mix that creates a playlist of 25 songs based on one song that you pick.
Here are the four big features Google is touting:
As you can see, there is nothing in the list above that would suggest that Google has partnered with any of the four major music labels in the US. This means that the company is essentially launching an alternative to Amazon's Cloud Drive.
Last month we heard that talks with labels for Google's new service were going backwards. The company had apparently changed its terms, holding up negotiations.
The only company that still has a chance with the labels is Apple. If Cupertino gets approval from the music industry, its cloud service will have one major advantage: store a single master copy of a song on its servers, and share that with multiple users. Amazon's and Google's services currently require users to upload a copy of every song they want to access remotely.
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