Google Music comes out of beta

Google has officially launched its Google Music service in the US, offering those of us situated across the pond a sneak preview of what we can expect when it makes the inevitable transition to the UK.

Previously available as a limited beta, Google Music represents the advertising giant's latest push into content provision. Previously, the company has offered app purchases through the Android Market, film rentals through both Android and its YouTube video streaming site, and ebook purchases through Google Books.

These, along with the new Google Music, represent a distinct departure for the company which has previously seen itself as more of a middle-man, launching services like Google Checkout to take a cut of sales from third parties without having to go through the hassle of gathering content itself.

The new Google Music - which, in typical Google form, was previously available as a beta - combines cloud storage with multi-device streaming and, now, iTunes-style music purchasing.

As with the beta, Google Music users are permitted to upload 20,000 songs to Google's servers. Following this mass music dump, songs are available to that user on any desktop, laptop, Android-powered tablet or smartphone for immediate streaming or download.

New to the official launch is the addition of the Google Music Store, which allows users to select tracks from a library of eight million songs - including EMI and Universal signed artists, but excluding Warner and Sony who have yet to agree to Google's terms and conditions - for purchase in DRM-free high-bitrate MP3 format.

Following a trend for the linking of music with social networking - such as the recently announced partnership between streaming music giant Spotify and social networking behemoth Facebook - Google has integrated sharing into the system.

Users who are signed up to the Google+ social network as well as Google Music will get the option to share any purchased song or album with selected 'circles' of friends. Each friend can then listen to the song once for free directly within the Google+ timeline, with subsequent playbacks requiring a purchase.

Google has one final trick up its sleeve, it announced at the press conference late last night: Busta Rhymes, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, The Rolling Stones, Shakira and Tiësto have all been bribed into providing content that will be exclusively available through the service.

So far, it all sounds good - if perhaps not quite enough to topple the giant that is Apple's iTune and iCloud one-two punch - but using the slow launch of Google Books as a yardstick it could be a while before we get our hands on it this side of the Atlantic.