Jeff Sexton

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Google Music Beta

I received a Google Music Beta invite, and I've just set it up.
Here's a few initial observations...

1) It requires an application to upload files.  The application is only for "PC and Mac", but what they really mean is Windows and Mac.  It appears to be a real compiled application, not a Java program.

2) The web page shows all the music you have uploaded and you can play music and manage lists from there.  It divides it nicely by artist, album and genre.  However there is no way to upload music from the web application.

3) The web application works on Linux.

4) The Android app works fine too.  Both the web app and the mobile app saw the new music I added as soon as it was finished uploading.  The mobile app does not seem to have a way to delete music from your library however.

5) The system had no problem displaying cover art for the albums I uploaded.

6) I uploaded whole artists by placing my artist directory in "My Music" on Windows (you can use other locations).  The system had no trouble magically dealing with my directory structures.

7) It appears to be able to suck music right out of iTunes.

8) The system seems to add free music to your available music based on what you upload, and also based on genre preferences entered during the initial setup.  The does not seem to be a way to edit these preferences later.

9)  Not surprisingly, there is no way to download files (aside from streaming music).

10) There's no "social" elements.

11) As far as I can tell, the mobile application includes no way to delete, thumbs-up or thumbs-down a song.

12) I like that the system counts the number of times a song has been played.  On the web page, when viewing items by song, the play count shows up. The data can even be sorted by play count.  Oddly though, this is only the plays via the web page.  Plays via the Android application are not included.

13) During playback on my Droid 2, using the the phone network not WiFi, songs occasionally abruptly end and it skips to the next selection.

14) I did not at first realize it, but the interface on the mobile app is significantly different, and better, in "landscape" mode.

The whole thing, including the mobile app, has a very much no-frills feel to it.   There's no fat or fluff on this, so on the one hand there's a lot it can't do, but on the other it's bonehead simple.

Seems to work so far, and the streaming audio quality is high...  This thing it a major bandwidth consumer, but this isn't Google's fault.   If this application catches on, and I think it will, the over-promising telcom providers are in trouble.

Things the new music system needs...

1) the mobile app should send play count data to the server so it shows on the web application.

2) There should be custom, configurable,"smart" automatic playlists so the user can control, perhaps with percentage sliders, the influence of various factors in "magic" playlists created by the system.

3) The "3D" interface element on the mobile app is fun.  I'd like to see more of that.

4) The modile app'a album view shows 3 rows of cover art, in sideways mode.  These images are too small on a phone. The size of the thumbnail should be configurable.

5) The WIndows/Mac only upload utility needs a bit more control - and a Linux version.

6) I'd like to be able to throttle back the playback bit-rate manually to save bandwidth in some situations.  Of course the system is said to do this automatically, but just the same there may be times when I went something less then the very best possible rate.

7) Playback can be set to WiFi only on the mobile app.  It would be nice to be able to set it to WiFi never as well.

8) Eventually it needs a method of buying music, if the media companies ever get out of suicide mode.  Or perhaps Google should simply launch a record label and deal directly with artists.

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