Google Music Beta was one of the main introductions at the recent Google I/O Conference. In essence, it is a Cloud-based music file storage system which has a number of clever features enabled by the Android software that powers / manages it from Android devices.
The idea is that you can store 20,000 or so MP3 files in the Google Cloud, and access these music files in streaming fashion - through any of your Android devices at any time. The software does some clever syncing which allows you to add files and create playlists and auto-generated mixes from any location. Additional smarts is provided by and offline syncing system which downloads recently played tracks to the local device, so that the files can also be played offline.
Obviously, it’s not long since Amazon launched its Amazon Cloud Player, which offers similar functionality on the storage front, albeit not backed up by the same clever multi-device software. Spotify is an obvious competitor which offers a very similar service, but rather from an extended music library angle. For Google Music Beta - you upload all your own tracks versus Spotify where you typically stream from a larger general library of music. No doubt Apple is watching and waiting in the wings, as it’s own rumoured Cloud Storage / Streaming Solution is due around the middle of this year.
In a conversation with my younger colleague Chris, I was somewhat surprised that he operates by a similar music collector system to me - buying cherished / favourite tracks / albums on CD and then transferring to digital library, whilst downloading more spontaneous and adhoc tunes and tracks in digital format. As a contrast, my brother Markus gets pretty much all his music from Spotify.
I’m still of a mind that the global network / Internet infrastructure- particularly for the UK, is wholly NOT up to the task of providing a decent uninterrupted streaming service. I still see the cloud as a virtual attic - where you store your overflow files and materials which are not in daily use. I cannot see any substitute for having the actual files on your portable device - if you want to ensure quality and reliable music playback. One of the main reasons I like my iPhone is that its 32GB of inbuilt memory allows me to carry circa 26GB worth of current music with me wherever I go. I keep hoping the next generation of iPhone is going to up the memory size to at least 64GB - to allow me to carry more of my music collection with me.
As for storage, I’m still very old-school, and for cherished music, I feel safer having a reliable physical back-up in the form of a CD. I believe most of the younger generation are much less attached to the physicality of things though, and will be quite happy to store and access their music in the digital realm. Google’s solution is certainly more fully fledged than Amazon’s, but do either of them really compete with Spotify? And what will Apple do next to make it’s own iTunes and Ping offerings smarter and more appealing?