It's on. It's live. And, for a little while, anyway, it's free: Go here to request an invitation to Google's cloud music service, released today under the entirely unthrilling name Music Beta.
So what's it do? We ran through the details earlier today, but the company released a little promo video that shows what the music-in-the-cloud user experience is like. Check it out after the jump.
Music Beta seems to contain cool features -- it can make a playlist based on the characteristics of a single song, for one thing -- but it's a far cry from the kind of service that Google could have unveiled if it had reached a deal with the major labels. One big limitation is that Music Beta requires users to upload all their music to the cloud -- a slow process that no one wants to have to do. (Notice how the labor of having to upload is skipped over in the above video.) Had Google reached a deal, it's likely users could have simply streamed music they already owned without having to upload it first.
Google knows this: its executives didn't try to hide their frustration with the record labels (apparently Sony and Universal) they couldn't reach agreement with. Without those deals, the service Google did launch -- which does seem pretty well-designed -- leaves consumers in an awkward place. As Mark Mulligan points out:
The problem for consumers is that they are effectively being forced to choose between licensed streaming music services (Rhapsody, rdio, Spotify, MOG, Napster etc.) and locker services such as Amazon and Google's. The simple fact is that both should be part of a combined user experience. Streaming, purchasing, discovery, storage and playback should all be brought together into a 360 Degree Music experience. That's what consumers want and is the logical answer to the questions the emergence of the cloud poses. 360 Degree Music experiences are what will sell devices and drive music consumption and revenue, not locker services alone.
The only hope left that we'll get that soon lies with Apple, which is expected to unveil its cloud music service next month.