After a spending a summer in limited beta, Google Music finally launched today during an event in held Los Angeles, just one day after Apple debuted its iTunes Match. The new service, like the beta, allows users to upload a maximum of 20,000 songs from their personal music collection to Google's servers and listen to them from any Google Music-enabled device. And contrary to its initial claims that Google Music would require a monthly fee, Google said that the service will remain free of charge.
The search giant also announced that it is jumping into the music sales business, with the launch of its new Google Music store. Available through the Android Market, the store is set up much like the Market's app, video, and book stores, complete with featured artists and staff picks. Songs downloaded through the store are available as 320 kbps MP3s and are immediately accessible through any of your Google Music-enabled devices.
To facilitate users' ability to find new artists, the store will also offer one free song each day, as well as a new featured artist every week. 90-second previews will be available for every song. Songs are expected to cost between $0.99 and $1.29, roughly the same as those available through iTunes. Despite rumblings earlier in the week that Google would be launching with a limited number of partners, the company said it has secured agreements with EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal, as well as a host of independent labels. There was however, still no sign of Warner Music Group.
To upload songs from your personal collection, you'll have to download Google's Music Manager (versions of which are available for Windows, Max, and Linux) to your desktop. Once installed, you can ask Music Manager to search through your music collection, including your iTunes library, and select songs to upload to your Google Music account.
In addition to streaming your uploaded and downloaded music through Google Music, you can also instantly download your tunes to any web-connected device for offline listening. Say, for instance, you're streaming a playlist through the Google Music, but are going into the subway or getting on a plane. Google Music will let you download individual songs or entire playlists to your device via the service's Listen Offline mode.
Google is also taking a run at Facebook's new Spotify integration, by making songs you download through the Google Music Store available as full previews to your friends on Google+.
Google Music is available on the web now through music.google.com. The mobile music store is expected to land on the Android Market in the coming days.