INTERNET GIANT Google will announce its music streaming service today at its I/O developer conference in San Francisco.
The service will be called Music Beta by Google and will be based on Google's cloud, where users can upload and stream their digital music collections.
The highly anticipated music service is expected to be similar to the Cloud Drive and Cloud Player offered by Amazon in March. However, Google intends to offer tons more music than Amazon's service.
Music Beta will fill a gap in Android's otherwise extensive offerings. Amazon's Cloud Player also works with Android, giving fans of the little green robot a selection of music services to choose from, which further reinforces the platform's nature as the operating system for choice.
Google's competitor Apple doesn't have a cloud music service, but it is rumoured to be working hard on one, with its acquisition of Lala in December 2009 pointing firmly in that direction. Its Itunes service remains one of the most successful music stores online, hinting that an Apple cloud music service could do extremely well.
Google has been trying to secure the support of major record labels for the Music Beta project, but so far it has been unsuccessful. Jamie Rosenberg, director for digital content for Android, revealed to the New York Times that some of the big wigs in the music industry were demanding unreasonable business terms, ultimately resulting in Google deciding not to enter partnerships with them.
Amazon did the same with its cloud music service, deciding to go it alone rather than licence music directly from the labels. The record companies said they were disappointed that Amazon decided to go this route and that they were exploring legal options, suggesting that Amazon might be hauled into court over the matter. Since Google will soon be in the same boat, any case against Amazon will impact Google as well, and we could see the two rivals become temporary allies to battle the entrenched music industry.
The way Google and Amazon have skirted around not having deals with record companies is to let users upload their own purchased songs to their clouds. This means that people cannot buy songs directly from either company, an option that both originally wanted, but simply buy music through other means and treat the cloud as primarily a storage facility.
Google's Music Beta will let users store a whopping 20,000 songs for free, a big difference from Amazon's free storage of 1,000 songs. Anything over this will incur a charge. It's likely that Google's free service will be sufficient for the majority of users, we imagine.
The service will store local copies of recently played songs and songs selected for offline access, addressing the issue of what happens when you lose your internet connection. Songs will be accessible on any device linked with the user's Google account and full synchronisation between devices will be available.
Initially Music Beta will be invitation-only, with Verizon Xoom customers getting priority. Google will also launch a web site for the service and users will be able to download an app for their Android device or use a Flash web player. µ
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