Thursday, November 17, 2011

Finally Google Launches Music Store | Google Music

Google offers free storage of users' own collection, with two caveats. First, you have to upload the collection to Google's servers, a one-time effort that could take a few hours depending on the size of the collection. Second, that free offer is limited to 20,000 tracks; this shouldn't be an issue for most users.

Songs sold from Google Music are in DRM-free MP3 format and encoded at 320 Kbps. Apple's purchased music (and matched songs in iTunes Match) are 256 Kbps AAC format. I'd say the two are roughly equivalent in quality, though the Google songs might be a bit bigger from a file size perspective. Song prices on both services vary somewhat, with Google's ranging from 99 cents to $1.29.

Google offers some integration with its Google+ social networking service, while Apple offers the similarly uninteresting Ping service. Heads up, guys. We all share stuff on Facebook.

Of course, each service takes a very proprietary bent. Apple's is available on iOS devices--iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone, and on Macs and PCs via the iTunes software, which is lackluster on the PC in particular. Google's is available primarily on Android devices; users with PCs or Macs must use the web.

Google Music is currently available only to consumers in the United States. It's unclear when international markets will come online, but given the slow pace at record companies and the varying rights per market, it could take some time.

Regardless, the question here is whether Google has something that can stand up to Apple's iTunes juggernaut. As you may know, Apple's blockbuster online store has recently been augmented by iCloud, which stores all iTunes music and TV show purchases for customers in the cloud, and iTunes Match, a $25 per year service that provides a high-quality duplicate of the rest of customers' music libraries in the cloud.

In the end, consumers should use both as required. For example, there's no reason for a diehard iTunes user not to go grab the free music Google is offering this week, even if they intend to keep using Apple's devices and services going forward. This is yet another time when choice benefits users, who can sit on the sidelines and benefit while two corporate behemoths go at it in the marketplace.


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