May 11, 2011, 4:33 PM

Google tests music storage and streaming service

Google Music lets consumers store and listen to their music collections, but they can’t buy—yet.

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Google Inc. yesterday released a test version of Google Music, an Internet-based music storage service for consumers. It allows consumers to upload music collections stored on their computers—such as songs stored using Apple’s iTunes program—to the Internet and listen to them on up to eight devices, including Windows and Apple computers and Android-based mobile phones and tablet computers.

Google Music operates as a storage and access service similar to Amazon’s Cloud Drive service, which launched in March, except consumers cannot buy digital music files using Google’s program, at least not yet. Google told the audience at its annual conference for developers yesterday that it could not reach an agreement with music labels to sell music through the system. Consumers can upload up to 20,000 songs to Google Music and the service is free while the program is being tested. Google did not disclose how long it will be in test mode or what any post-launch fees might be.

Amazon’s service is free up to 5 GB, or about 80 hours of music. Amazon.com is the No. 1 e-retailer in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. Apple Inc.’s iTunes Store, the leading seller of digital music, does not offer a web-based storage solution to back up consumers’ music. Apple is No. 3 in the Top 500 Guide.

Because Google’s music storage is cloud-based—meaning the files are stored off consumers’ computers and accessed via the Internet—Google Music automatically updates any changes a consumer makes, such as adding or deleting a song or creating a playlist, so that the consumer can access her updated account from any device.

Google also says Google Music allows consumers to access recently played tracks on their devices even if the device if offline or, in the case of mobile device, out of range of a cellular or Wi-Fi network.

A Google video describing the service says this lets consumers “spend more time listening to music and less time managing it.”

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