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Best Buy launching cloud music service

Retailer joins the rush to the cloud, offering customers a way to store their iTunes-accessible music online and listen to it from their PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

Best Buy

Best Buy is launching its own cloud-based music service that will let customers store and stream music from the Internet to their PCs and mobile devices.

Dubbed simply Best Buy Music Cloud, the service is following in the footsteps of similar offerings from Amazon, Google, and Apple.

Customers can upload their tunes to the Music Cloud and then stream them to their smartphone or tablet. Best Buy is promising that you can store your favorite music offline to listen to when you're not connected. Your playlists come along for the ride, so that you see the same ones across your PCs and mobile devices. And any new songs or playlists are automatically added to your account, accessible from the Web and your phone or tablet.

Though Best Buy hasn't "officially" launched the service, according to Digital Trends, interested customers can sign up at the Music Cloud site. You'll then need to download and install the client software on your PC or Mac. Once installed, the Music Cloud software offers to scan your iTunes library. Yes, the service does require that your music be accessible through iTunes even if you're not an Apple or iOS user.

You're then asked to add the name of your phone or tablet from a list of mobile devices. Further instructions are sent to your device via a text message and/or e-mail.

The service supports iOS devices, Android devices, and BlackBerrys through their own respective mobile apps. However, I wasn't able to find an app at RIM's BlackBerry App World. And when I registered my iPad, Best Buy sent me a response e-mail with a registration code, but told me that the app for Apple devices will be available shortly.

Once your music is uploaded, you should be able to log into your Music Cloud account to see all of your tunes and then sync your music through the mobile app on your device.

Best Buy offers both a free "lite" version and a $3.99-per-month premium version, though it's not fully clear what the differences are between the two. Digital Trends claims that users of the free version will only be able to listen to 30 seconds of each song, while Boy Genius Report says the free edition provides access only to the Best Buy Web player and not to your mobile devices.

A Best Buy blog post on Music Cloud makes the whole process sound relatively quick and simple. But clearly, Best Buy needs to fine-tune its new service before it can go head-to-head against the likes of Amazon and Apple.

Responding to questions from CNET about Music Cloud, a Best Buy spokesman said the company doesn't have any information to share.

Updated at 8:20 a.m. PST with comment from Best Buy.