Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beta invite site for Google's cloud-based music service goes live

Google is about to pull an Amazon.com. It is expected to announce a beta cloud-based music service on Tuesday at Google I/O, one very similar to Amazon.com's Cloud Drive / Cloud Player services, particularly in one respect: it will launch, just as Amazon.com's services, sans any deals with the music industry.

Google, like Amazon.com, hasn't managed to secure licenses from the four major music labels (Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, EMI, and Warner Music Group). Jamie Rosenberg, who oversees digital content and strategy for Android told All Things D:
“Unfortunately, a couple of the major labels were less focused on the innovative vision that we put forward, and more interested in in an unreasonable and unsustainable set of business terms.”
Google's move may have been made as it sees rival Apple close to a deal with the music labels. Apple has deals in place with at least two of the four major labels, and could launch its own cloud-based service at any time.

If Google or Amazon.com had been able to secure licensing deals, users would not have had to upload music to the a digital locker. Instead, the services could have scanned their computers, matched the songs users' owned to a central server, and paid content owners for each stream. Reportedly, the two holdouts were Sony Music Group and Universal Music Group.

Despite the fact that both Amazon.com and Google will have beaten Apple out of the gate, most sources expect that the Apple version will have more feature-rich than its competitors'.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, among the details that are expected to be unveiled today are:
  • The service will be called Music Beta by Google.
  • Google’s service will offer more free storage than Amazon.com's: users will be able to store up to 20,000 songs for free. Amazon.com's service launched with 5GB of free storage (roughly 2,000 songs). Cloud Drive users can pay fees for greater storage. 50GB, or the equivalent of about 20,000 songs, would cost $50 per year.
  • The initial rollout will be invite-only. Users will have to sign up at a link (which just went live), but reportedly, those with Motorola Xooms will have priority but although originally it was stated that those with Motorola Xooms would have priority, there appears to be no way to input that info at the beta request site. It's possible that Google can extract that information from its records of a user's Android devices [which they know, as seen when you login to the web-based Android Market].
  • Users who manage to get into the beta will get some free music added. Google managed to successfully negotiated rights for at least this much.
  • Any Web-enabled device with a browser that supports Flash (sorry iOS users) can stream music from the locker. Android-powered devices can install an app to download and play cached streams. [This disagrees with a WSJ report that says Google has skipped this feature, perhaps as a way to make up for the fact it has not negotiated any deals]
  • The app is optimized for Honeycomb (Android 3.0), but any Android device with Android 2.2 or higher can support it.
  • For now, without licenses, Google has no way to sell music, unlike Amazon.com.
Google director of content partnerships Zahavah Levine added:
"A large segment of the music industry worked cooperatively and was extremely helpful sorting out the issues of online licensing. We certainly remain open to partnerships with the music industry for new features and functionality. This is the beginning of what we hope will be a long relationship with music and users and helping users engage with music and artist and fans."
Google has posted a video on Music Beta by Google, shown below.

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