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May 10

We’ve known it was coming for, well… years – and today Google Music has been released to the masses.  Er, well, to the potential masses at any rate.  The new service, currently in beta, is available by invite only for the foreseeable future and only in the United States.

Google Music BetaSo, what exactly is Google Music?

Unfortunately it is not – at least in its current version – a way to get new music.  Nor is it an iTunesesque USB-based jukebox sync center.  Like Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Cloud Player,  Google Music is a way to store your existing music collection online, access it via the Cloud, and manage and playback audio over an internet connection from a number of devices, including Android-powered smartphones and tablets.

Here’s how it works: upload your music collection from iTunes or from folders on your Mac or PC to your Google Music account.  Once stored there, you can access and listen to your music from a Flash-enabled web browser or on an Android 2.2+ device with the Google Music app installed.  You can also create and manage playlists manually, or even allow the service to create a playlist for you based on a selected song in your library. 

The real advantage to this service appears to be its ability to keep your music collection in sync via the web.  Because changes made to your Google Music collection on one device is mirrored to your other connected computers and devices, you can change and manage your collection from the comfort for a laptop or desktop, and have your changes available when you use your phone or tablet – and vice versa. 

In its current beta form, Google Music allows you to upload 20,000 tracks (no word on a numerical storage limit).  The web site also says the service is free for now, which means there’ll be a price at some point down the road.  This would most likely be based on the amount of storage used, something like 10GB free, $5 per year for an extra 20 gigabytes, a type of pay-for-storage structure already found in Google accounts. 

If Google can iron out agreements with music industry bigwigs, it’s easy to imagine an evolved Google Music service that allows you to purchase new songs instantly stored in the Cloud and available for streaming.  This was apparently the hope at launch, but has failed to materialize, which resulted in the service being relegated to use with digital music obtained from other sources.  Hopefully, this will change soon.

If you’d like to get in the line for invitees, head over to the Google Music web page and sign up.  It’ll be interesting to see how many invites go out in the near term.

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