updated 06:45 pm EST, Wed November 16, 2011
Google Music now open to all in US
Google's music store was joined Wednesday by an open launch of its Google Music cloud service. The music locker is now ready to use without an invitation and lets users upload as many as 20,000 songs that can stream to Android devices, the desktop web, and iOS devices through the browser. The service remains free to use, although it remains US-only.
Mac and Windows PC desktop manager apps have been updated to reach the finished service. Either can upload unprotected music from sources such as iTunes. The Music player app for Android is being updated to give an interface more consistent with Android 4.0 and to provide quicker access to the store when live. The app lets listeners pin tracks or albums to the phone to listen to them offline without having to download permanent copies.
In launching the service, Google tried to take a shot at iTunes Match, which beat it to market by two days. It maintained its position that the service was just outside storage and portrayed Apple's service as double-dipping, although this was partly a criticism of the music labels themselves.
"Other services make you think you have to pay to listen to music you already own," Google said.
While Google's service has a cost advantage and by extension is always available, Apple's service is still more technically advanced. iTunes Match checks a listener's songs against its store and skips re-uploads for tracks that match, saving hours and potentially days of uploads. Google also has no outlet if a listener runs into the 20,000 song cap where iTunes Match owners can expand their iCloud space if the free 5GB doesn't cover whatever songs weren't already uploaded.
Google's actions, while legal, are likely to further enrage major labels that have wanted to push Google into offering a paid service. Labels have often considered cloud music playback a second use. Apple is believed to have resisted as well, but to have decided that it would rather pay and get benefits like song matching than face a delay or limit features.