Music Beta from Google has just evolved into Google Music, opening up to users in the United States and bringing another major music player to the cloud. Earlier this week, Apple finally introduced iTunes Match, allowing iOS device users to stream music anywhere using iCloud.
Google Music offers 13 million tracks available to purchase through a new music store in the Android Market (some five million less than iTunes) after signing deals with EMI, Sony and Universal, as well as the global independent rights agency Merlin and over 1,000 prominent independent labels. Individual tracks and complete albums purchased on the Android Market are immediately made available to the Google user on Google Music.
A desktop application Music Manager, available for all major desktop operating systems, can be used to automatically upload existing and new tracks from iTunes, Windows Media Player and folder directories to Google Music. Google Music users can upload 20,000 tracks to the service free of charge. It’s not yet understood whether Google may introduce a subscription-based model for power users who wish to exceed this limit.
Google Music users can then stream their library of music from any Android device using the Google Music application, or through any web browser. Individual tracks can also be “pinned” or cached to a device for offline playing.
One of the main advantages of Google Music over any other similar cloud solution, like iTunes Match or Amazon Cloud Drive, is its ability to use existing Google services to boost exposure. Tracks purchased on Google Music and shared on Google+ can be listened to in their entirety by users’ friends on the network, further encouraging them to use Google’s music offering. Offering friends a free, high-quality playback could be Google Music’s killer feature?