Google Music, Google’s new music service just launched as an invite-only beta at Google I/O today and we just got a chance to take it for a test drive on the Web (look for our review of how it works on mobile devices later). After testing it for a little bit, it quickly becomes clear that this could be a major hit for Google. Indeed, among today’s music locker services like Amazon’s Cloud Drive and MP3tunes, Google’s efforts come the closest to recreating the convenience of Lala, the service that Apple bought last year and promptly shut down.
After you download the installer, Google Music will ask you if you want to automatically sync your library whenever you add new songs to it. This should make it easy for Android users who are deeply invested into their iTunes library and playlists to keep using it on their desktops. Google, of course, doesn’t make a Google Music desktop app, so for the time being, you will have to use another desktop jukebox anyway.
As part of the install process, Google also lets you select a few music categories that you enjoy and will pre-populate your music locker with a few free songs (I’m not sure how Google actually licensed those, by the way).
Depending on the size of your playlist, uploading songs can obviously take a while, so having some free songs to play around with at the beginning is a nice bonus.
Thanks to its ability to sync with iTunes, Google Music also syncs your playlists. You can, of course, also start a new one at any time. The service also creates some automatic playlists for you based on your likes (thumbs up, in Google Music parlance), as well as list of your recently added songs.
One of the niftiest features of the service is the ability to create “Instant Mixes.” During today’s keynote, Google stressed that its algorithms don’t just compare users’ playlists the way Apple does, but actually looks at the music in your collection and finds songs that actually go well together. To start an instant mix, you just click on a song, select “Instant Mix” and assuming you have a few matching songs in your collection, Google Music will create a new playlist for you and start playing it.
Except for the fact that you can’t buy music and that the service doesn’t feature any social layer yet, Google Music is probably the best online music locker service yet. As Google builds out partnerships and adds features, it will hopefully be able to offer features like playlist sharing (which works great for Spotify) and the ability to buy music on the Web and your mobile devices as well.