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Google has launched a free music service that looks set to rival Apple's iTune Match offering.
Unlike the iTunes service, which costs £21.99 a year to iPhone and iPad device owners, the Google service is available for free to UK and US users. The service was rolled out in the US following a successful European launch last month.
Users need to download Google’s Music Manager which then scans their computer for songs held in their iTunes library, Windows Media Player or other files. The findings are then uploaded to the cloud.
If Google finds a matching song, it skips the upload and streams its own version. Other files are uploaded. All songs count against a user’s limit of 20,000 songs.
The application makes music available within seconds of installation but the full library may not be available for a few hours as it uploads music to Google’s servers in the cloud. The songs can be streamed to a user’s computer or via their Android devices. The media player supports MP3, ACC, WMA, FLAC and OGG files, but not protected AAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF or RA files.
“Our new music matching feature gets your songs into your online music library on Google Play much faster," read a statement on the service’s Google+ website. “We’ll scan your collection and quickly rebuild it in the cloud - all for free. And we’ll stream your music back to you at up to 320 kbps.
Songs can only be downloaded twice from the cloud library to whatever PC the user is on. Unlike rival services from Spotify and Pandora, Google Play is free of ads in-between songs or on the website.
Users can download the application and start uploading music to the cloud here.