Up to now, Google has been the poor boy of online music, but that's about to change. It rolled out a scan and match feature on Wednesday for Google Music users that gives the search giant a leg up on Amazon's Cloud Player service and Apple's iTunes Match. Here are some things you should know about Google's matching service.
What is it?
Google's service scans a user's computer, giving them online access to the songs it finds, provided Google can match those songs on its servers. If the songs cannot be found, they will be uploaded to a user's online locker.
The service saves you the time of manually uploading your music to Google Music by scanning the files in your library and comparing them to songs in the Google Music library.
If your song is in the Google Music library, Google will copy it to your cloud account. If it isn't in Google's library of approximately 13 million songs, Google will upload to your cloud account. (In comparison, Amazon and Apple claim to have about 20 million songs in their respective libraries.)
What will it cost me?
Nothing. It's free. That compares to Apple and Amazon, which charge $25 a year for similar services.
How much music can I store in Google's cloud?
You can store up to 20,000 tunes in Google Music. That compares to 25,000 tunes with Apple and 250,000 tunes with Amazon, although Amazon will allow you to store up to 250 songs in its cloud for free.
Do I need to install software?
Yes, a music manager program must be downloaded to your computer. The manager does the grunt work of comparing your songs to the songs in the Google Music library and uploading songs you have and Google doesn't.
How do I connect to my music?
You need an Internet connection to tap into your music in the Google cloud. You can download songs and albums to a phone or tablet and listen to them when you don't have an Internet connection, but there's no way to dump your library to a phone or tablet.
How do I play music in my cloud library?
You can surf to an URL (play.google.com/music) or play them through a mobile app. Google makes an app for Android for listening to your cloud library. Similar apps are available foriOS and Windows Phone.
How fast does music stream to me?
Google streams its music at 320 kbps. By comparison, Apple and Amazon stream their music at 256 kbps.
Why should I want Google's service?
If you want to listen to your music on a device whenever you can muster up an Internet connection, store your music in the cloud where you don't have to worry about losing it to a hard disk crash or other mishap and create an online music library without spending time manually uploading files -- and do it all for free -- then Google Music might be a match for you.