[click to view image]Setting up Google Music Beta isn't very complicated, and is basically the same process you go through whenever populating any other media player with your music, only it's done through your web browser. You will need a Google account, so once you create one -- or sign in with your existing account -- at music.google.com, you download the music uploader (a small .exe file), which asks you to select all of the folders you want it to scan for music files, and off it goes.
The best part is that the process of uploading the music to Google's cloud storage is that it doesn't have to be done all in one sitting, which will come as a relief to those who intend to capitalize on the program's allowance for the storage of 20,000 songs. Instead, Music Beta pauses the uploading process whenever the source computer is shut down, and automatically resumes the next time it gets booted up.
The Android version wasn't quite as smooth getting started, though. It had some troubles populating my library when I first started it up; since the Google Music Beta is actually handled through the regular Music app for Android, I basically just had to wait for it to automatically detect that I had signed up for the beta, since there was no manual option to have it connect to the cloud. This was an issue that inexplicably cleared up after a re-installation and a couple of reboots of the program, after which it realized that I had uploaded music to the cloud and it began to populate my library. It wasn't anything serious, but when compared to the easy-as-pie setup I experienced on the desktop, the hiccup was something that stood out to me.
EASE OF USE
[click to view image]The user interface is very basic on Google Music Beta, and it's easily accessible from anywhere through an Internet browser or Android device. Once you sign into the service with your Google account at music.google.com you're presented with your library, which you can organize in any fashion you please, and Google even gives you a handful of free songs (from genres of your choice) to get you started. Double-click on any song and it starts playing…that's all there is to it.
There are a handful of other features in this service besides just playback, and they're all equally easy to use and are covered below.
As a media player, Google Music Beta is relatively bare bones and light on any particularly stand-out features. Everything you would expect to find on your average music player is found here, including the ability to sort by new/recent, song title, artist, album, or genre; search your library; rate songs; create playlists; and create instant mixes, which basically creates a playlist based off of the sound and genre of a song that the user selects.
[click to view image]While the instant mix is a good idea -- albeit not entirely unique, as this is basically the gist of the iTunes Genius playlist function -- I found that it still needs to be tweaked for future versions of Google Music. Right now, more often than not, songs in my library cannot successfully produce an instant mix; instead, I just get an error that says, "Couldn't create an instant mix."
The Android App for Google Music Beta has a few more features that are not only clever, but evidence that Google took the time to craft a version of the program that caters specifically to mobile device use. For instance, there is an ability to mark songs from your library so they become cached and available for offline listening. It's a handy feature in case you're looking to preserve your data plan or you're in an area with shoddy service or no Wi-Fi.
As it currently stands, Google Music Beta is a free service, and as is the case with most things sporting a $0 price tag, it's hard to complain about what you get out of it. Even still, it seems like an impressive value out of the gate; to offer users a 20,000 song limit right out of the gate is quite generous.
I do find it puzzling, however, that Google explicitly states in the Help section that the limit is determined by that specific number of songs, in turn suggesting that the cap is not determined by the amount of space needed to store them. If this is indeed the case and not just an approximation, users uploading their libraries that consist of 20,000 seven-minute songs are going to be getting a little more bang for their non-existent buck than those with average-length tunes, which are subsequently smaller files.
[click to view image]It is worth noting, though, that Google Music Beta is currently only available through invitation. But that was the case with Gmail at its start, too, so I imagine once this takes off, it will be open to the public in no time. For those who are especially anxious to get in on the action, you can apply for an invitation at music.google.com, but even that might be a bit of a wait, as the site currently states that due to strong demand, requests aren't immediately accommodated.
Put simply, I don't see why people wouldn't use Google Music Beta. It's certainly not perfect and isn't exactly bursting with features -- actually, it's very much a no-frills experience -- but it's free, you can upload most if not all of your songs, and it's accessible from your smartphone or anywhere else you can find an Internet connection.
It's simple, for better or for worse, and its setup is easy and fast. What are you waiting for?