A year after announcing its plans to dive into the digital music business, Google on Tuesday unveiled Music Beta, an invite-only service that lets users upload their music collection to Google's servers and stream the songs from any Web browser.
Google is not making the service widely available and instead is asking people to sign up for an invitation.
Among the key features is the ability to let users play music, even when they're not connected to the Internet. Google said users can listen to "recently played" songs, even when they're offline, meaning that the service caches a limited number of tunes into the computer or device. Google did not say how many songs it would make available offline.
The service also features iTunes-like software that lets people organize their music libraries, create custom playlists or tell the program to automatically generate a playlist based on one song. The software would also synchronize any changes users make on one computer to all devices they use to access their music.
Google said Music Beta can be used on computers, as well as tablets or smart phones that use Google's Android operating system.
For now, the service is unlicensed by record labels and music publishers, which means users must upload their music collection before they can access the files. For more inside-baseball analysis on the business aspects of Google's announcement, check out the story on our sister blog, Company Town.
-- Alex Pham