SiliconFilter

Apple Launches iTunes Match: You Can Now Get Your Piracy Amnesty for Just $25/Year

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Apple just launched iTunes Match, its cloud-based music backup and streaming service for iOS, Mac and PC. With iTunes Match, users can store up to 25,000 of their own songs from iTunes in the cloud. Unlike others music locker services (including Google Music and Amazon’s music locker), Apple managed to get a license from the music labels that allows it to just check whether it offers a certain song you have in your library in its store and then make that copy available to you. Because of this, you don’t have to upload your songs to Apple – iTunes will simply “match” your library to its cloud library and play back those songs instead of your own copies.

This also means you won’t have to wait hours (or maybe even days) for your music collection to upload to Apple’s servers. Only those of your songs that aren’t in Apple’s library will need to be uploaded.

iTunes Match is currently only available in the U.S. and it’s not clear when (or even if) Apple will release this feature in other countries.

Better File Quality and No More Worries about the RIAA

This also means that you will likely get better-quality versions of all those files you may downloaded from Napster a few years ago. iTunes Match makes all downloads available as DRM-free 256kbps AAC files.

Indeed, given that Apple doesn’t check whether you actually own a license to a given song, this new program is virtually equivalent to a piracy amnesty that costs you just $25 a year instead of thousands of dollars in potential RIAA lawsuits.

To get started, just make sure you have upgraded to the latest version iTunes (10.5.1) that come out today. You can download this new version from Apple.

But Not Yet…

For the time being, though, it looks as if Apple is somewhat overwhelmed by the demand for this service. New users are greeted by this message:

Update (11am PT): Looks like it’s working now and ready for new sign-ups.

itunes-Match-down



6:12 pm


Hands-On With Google Music Beta on the Web

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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.

Install

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.

Playlists

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.

Instant Mixes

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.

Verdict

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.



1:48 pm


Google Takes On Amazon’s Cloud Player With Launch of Music Beta

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Google today announced a new music service at its annual developer conference in San Francisco that goes head-to-head with Amazon’s recently launched Cloud Player and easily beats it in terms of both aesthetics and functionality. With Music Beta, users will be able to upload their music to the cloud, create playlists and sync their music to their mobile devices.

The launch of Google Music doesn’t come as a complete surprise, as rumors about it had been floating around the Internet for the last few months, but now we finally know more about the details and how it will work together with Android devices. While Google didn’t mention this specifically, it’s noteworthy that the company did not announce any partnerships with major record labels today.

Legality

As for the licensing issue, Google mostly sidestepped this question during a press Q&A after the keynote. While the company noted that it wants to work with the music industry, Google found their demands “unreasonable and unsustainable.” The service that launched today is, according to Google, perfectly legal and is “just the same as a backup hard drive.” Google obviously thinks that what it’s doing is completely legal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the music industry wouldn’t try to stop or cripple this service.

The Basics

Here are the basics: The beta is currently invite-only (all Google I/O attendees will receive access today – others will have to wait a bit longer). Google will provide uploaders for both Microsoft Windows and Apple’s OSX. For now, the service will be available for free (though this could change after the beta) and users will be able to upload up to 20,000 songs. Apps for Android 2.2+ phones and tablets will be available starting today.

google music beta on the webUnlike Amazon’s Cloud Player, Google Music will allow users to change the MP3 tags and other file information. Users will be able to download their songs to their devices from the cloud and playlists will sync wirelessly. Indeed, during the keynote, Google took a swipe at Apple and noted that it doesn’t just feature a better automatic playlist generation system based on the actual sound of the music, but that users will never have to plug in their phones to sync music.

Beating Amazon on All Counts – Except Music Purchasing

The user interface of Google Music both on the Web and on mobile devices is clearly superior to Amazon’s service (and any other current music locker service available today). With a focus on 3D graphics and easy syncing between devices, Google is clearly beating Amazon here. Where it can’t compete, though, is with regards to music purchasing. Without partnerships with major record labels, Google simply can’t offer this feature yet and users will have to continue to buy their music elsewhere.



10:39 am