UPDATED: Music Beta by Google finally released, but don't upload your pirated tunes

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The worst kept secret of Google I/O 2011 was announced today as Music Beta by Google, and this looks to fill a lot of the gaps that exist in the first-to-release Amazon Cloud Player. The real downer is that you won't be able to use the new music service without an invite, which you can apply for right here.

Music Beta runs in any Flash enabled web browser and there is now an app available for download in Android Market for any phone running Android 2.2 Froyo and above. The Honeycomb version of the Music Beta app will be included in the Honeycomb 3.1 update that begins rolling out today.

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This is a really strong offering from Google, providing the ability to have your music available across your computers and devices running Android, as well as keeping your playlists, ratings and play counts in sync as well.

First Impressions
What Google refers to as Instant Mix is their answer to the iTunes Genius playlist. With this feature you can create a 25 song mix based on a favorite track. Music Beat will generate your playlist based off of your selection. The killer feature of this option is that your Instant Mix will be available anywhere that you access Music Beta.

The browser-based app looks just like a desktop music manager, check out the screenshots below. You'll be able to add and delete music, create your own playlists, create Instant Mixes and mark music by song, album or artist to cache on the device. Just about all of the things that you would use a desktop music app for.

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One huge advantage to Music Beta over Amazon Cloud Player will be the integration of your local music files and your cloud music in to one unified group. With the Amazon app you are forced to access your cloud music in one screen and your local music files in another. Google seems to have gotten this part right. All of the I/O demos showed the two music libraries combined. Amazon has to be hard at work on this right now.

Music Beta will be free while it's in beta, which could be years as Google beta's tend to go. Your music storage space isn't capped at a set storage size either, but rather has a 20,000 song limit. This is another gigantic advantage that Google has over Amazon. I'd imagine that plans and pricing are being reviewed at Amazon HQ.

Key letdowns

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  1. There is no accompanying Google Music store.
  2. No agreement with labels so you'll have to upload all of your music files. It would have been an absolute slam dunk if the app simply scanned your library and those files were then placed in your music locker.
  3. No iOS, Blackberry or webOS support. I use an iPad as well as a Palm Pre+ and the ability to access my music on all of my devices would be nice. Amazon doesn't really offer this feature either so there is still time for Google to beat them to the punch.
  4. Froyo or better. There are way to many to devices that are still running Android 2.1 and below for Google to shut them out of this. The OS version fragmentation is Google's own doing so it would have been very nice for them to find a way to include the people who are using orphaned devices.
  5. Only available in U.S. right now.

Update 1:
Apple fan-boy extraordinaire MG Siegler got his beta invite because he is actually in attendance at I/O. I've added his screenshots of the setup process to the gallery included in this story.

Update 2: Keep your illegal files on Amazon Cloud Player
Gizmodo is out with a story that cites unnamed sources at Google I/O claiming that Google will remove any music from your cloud library that are deemed to be illegal. Speculating that Google will employ the same type of analysis that they use on YouTube as well as playlist scanning and digital watermarking of any files that you do upload.

The opening quote is the most distressing:

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Word from Google IO is that Google Music will delete user MP3s, if the copyright holder has a legitimate claim against their music being on the server

Doesn't that almost make it seem like someone from the music industry will be looking over your music stored on the service to see what you might not have the right to own? I'm sure that much more detail will emerge on this topic as time goes by so I'm still looking forward to my beta invite.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrNhKcxBbZo

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