Today's the day

Ah, what a twisty-turny tale has been the story of Google Music. It was happening, then it wasn't; then it was delayed, then it was back. And now, it seems, it's finally here, albeit not the way it was supposed to be.

Confused? We are, and we're writing this stuff. Let us explain. Google has been all-but-known for months to be developing a 'cloud' music service, mostly for the benefit of Android users, which would let them stream music they owned from a 'digital locker' in the cloud. Google intended to let users buy mp3's from them and have them appear instantly in the 'locker' for streaming, but also to let them upload their own mp3's.

Well, the first half proved the problematic bit - the record companies couldn't seem to agree terms Google could live with. 'A couple of the major labels were less focused on the innovative vision that we put forward, and more interested in an unreasonable and unsustainable set of business terms,' Google bod Jamie Rosenberg rather bitchily puts it. But Google is unbowed, and is going to launch Google Music later today anyway - just without the music store part. It'll let you upload mp3's you've bought elsewhere - but probably not from iTunes, which uses the AAC format - and stream them wherever you like.

Of course, it won't be unique. Not only is Apple believed to be on the verge of releasing a similar service - with iTunes purchases to back it up - but Amazon last month surprised everyone by launching its Cloud Player, which does exactly what Google's new service is going to do - and, like Apple and unlike Google, has a proper MP3 store attached to it.

So is Google's service to be, as tech heads say, DOA? Not necessarily. They're adding a fair few sweeteners to draw folks away from Amazon's offering: it lets you store 20,000 songs, against about 1200 for Amazon, and it's free, versus Amazon's $5 a month.

Who will win the battle of the cloud lockers? Who knows. But new ways of listening to our overpriced music are probably a good thing.

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