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Google takes aim at Apple with free cloud music service

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By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 15 Nov 2012 at 11:10

Google is taking a leaf out of Apple’s book - and possibly some of its users - by bringing its music matching service to the UK.

The service was quietly launched alongside music sales on Google Play Music and the Nexus devices released earlier this week, but the 20,000-track online storage facility is worth looking at in more detail.

Google’s Play Scan and Match system puts it on a direct collision course with Apple because it allows users to upload all the music from their iTunes library in a manner that could undermine Apple's own Match service.

We’ll scan your iTunes or My Music folder, and any songs that match against our database will be automatically added to your online music library

A spokesperson for Google explained that the system was reflective of the way the industry was evolving.

"People can upload from any service folder," the Google spokesperson told PC Pro. "People have already paid for the music so they should be able to listen to it anywhere – it’s the equivalent to Apple’s Match, but this is free."

By comparison Apple’s service costs £22 a year. Google’s service is effectively a cloud-based locker for music which is then available anywhere on Android or iOS hardware or over the web - but the clever part is the matching tools.

"The new Scan and Match service streamlines the process of uploading your personal music to Google Play - we’ll scan your iTunes or My Music folder, and any songs that match against our database will be automatically added to your online music library," the company said.

"You can store up to 20,000 songs online, for free, and stream tracks to any device."

As PC Pro columnist Paul Ockenden noted, the Match service’s most useful benefit is how it helps organise collections of music that are often scattered across numerous computers and folders.

As Ockenden pointed out, Apple was winning the cloud music battle, at least because Google had yet to launch, but the arrival of Google on the scene could threaten the iPhone maker’s dominant position.

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User comments

I subscribed to iTunes match when it was released and have downloaded their higher quality version of a significant proportion of my tracks. The thing is, that's the only benefit I get from it because every time I open the music app on my iPhone and iPad they just sit there thinking for ages. I guess my library is just too big. So if I listen to music it's off my hard drive, or on my iPod Classic. This means I don't really need to renew my Match subscription for another year. I've been using Google Music for months but that comes with its own set of problems - it synced a huge number of my tracks before iTunes Match did its thing, so I've used up my 20,000 song limit with the wrong version of my files in thousands of cases. I can resolve this but it involves spending hours, maybe days, deleting and uploading the right ones (the Google helpdesk actually offered a solution but there is quite understandably a limit to which their system works alongside an iTunes library), and even when I've got a huge bandwidth allowance on my broadband, with a 200gb library I'm starting to worry about the sheer amount of bandwidth I'll use. Managing my library is threatening to become a full time job!

So the announcement of Google's Match service might be the silver bullet I'm looking for. Save the £22 a year I spend on Apple and have a single place online where I backup my music, and can access it there if I have the need.

One of my friends uses Spotify, as do I, and I'm really starting to wonder whether owning any music files is that necessary.

By revsorg on 15 Nov 2012

Hmm, patchy

Well, so far of my 2047 tracks it has matched 0 and tried to upload 2047. Oh, and there's no 'pause' function either.

By The_Scrote on 15 Nov 2012

B0rked

It also finds nothing when it scans Windows Media Player, despite every song being quite obviously its library. It seems I am not the only one having these problems today - back to the drawing board.

By The_Scrote on 15 Nov 2012

I forgot to mention, the other reason the Google match service works for me is that my music collection isn't growing at anything like the same rate it used to.

I have stopped spending money on music until they rescind the DEAct. Saves me about £1,000 a year.

By revsorg on 15 Nov 2012

I like it so far

I uploaded my 10k+ songs last night - probably took about 4hrs as there seemed to be a lot of matches. And I'm on fibre. :) All files were MP3. I'm now using Google Music at work today with no hitches at all.

As I synced my My Music folder rather than iTunes or WMP (which I don't use), it's a bit unfortunately that it hasn't picked up the playlist files in that directory, but I can live with that for now.

@The_Scrote - just close the Google Music application on your computer (click on the system tray icon). It just picks up where it left when you restart it. No need for a specific 'pause'.

By BabyDinosaur on 15 Nov 2012

The conversation a lot of iTunes users seem to have is whether it's possible to edit the MP3 tag data for your file once it's in the cloud. If you edit the tags in your local version do your edits get loaded up to the file stored in Google Music, do you end up with unsynched data, or is all your tag data stored locally?

By revsorg on 15 Nov 2012

For a scan and match service it seems to use an awful lot of bandwidth. Not sure I believe Google's claims as most of my music is mainstream and it seemed to be uploading most of my stuff.

By c6ten on 15 Nov 2012

Loving it!

It's chuntering through my 11k tracks and I'm already loving being able to shuffle play my whole music collection on all my devices wherever I am.

Uploading yesterday via my landline did foul the home network up a bit, so I'm completing it today via my wonderful HTC phone's portable hotspot - using Three network's "All you can eat" One Plan.

Another couple of hundred have uploaded whilst writing this. Excellent!

By richard_no1 on 16 Nov 2012

Comedy collection

I've just uploaded my very messy collection, I was hoping for this to help tidy up but I now have Bernard Cribbins as the album art for 50% of my albums, albums are split into single files (so I have 10 "albums" rather than 1 album with 10 tracks and other strange effects. Never mind, have been using Spotify for some time and love it, time to archive those dusty MP3...

By muppeteer on 16 Nov 2012

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