June 25, 2024

Google to Unveil Service to Let Users Stream Their Music

SAN FRANCISCO — Google plans to introduce its long-awaited service to allow people to upload and store their music collections on the Web and listen to their songs on Android phones or tablets and on computers.

The announcement of the new service, a so-called cloud-based music player, will be made on Tuesday at Google I/O, the company’s developers conference here, which will run through Wednesday.

The service, to be called Music Beta by Google, is similar to one introduced by Amazon in March, although it will store considerably more music. And like Amazon, Google does not have the cooperation of music labels, which means that users cannot do certain things that would legally require licenses, like sharing songs with friends and buying songs from Google.

But Google’s announcement at this time was unexpected because it has been negotiating with the music labels for months to try to make a deal to team with them on a cloud music service.

“A couple of major labels were not as collaborative and frankly were demanding a set of business terms that were unreasonable and did not allow us to build a product or a business on a sustainable business,” said Jamie Rosenberg, director for digital content for Android. “So we’re not necessarily relying on the partnerships that have proven difficult.”

After Amazon introduced its service, music label executives said they were disappointed and exploring their legal options.

Neither Google’s nor Amazon’s cloud players make true many Web companies’ dream, which is for people to be able to listen to their music whenever they want, on any device. Ideally, Web companies would keep a copy of every song in the cloud, creating a kind of Internet jukebox, and give users instant access to those they own without uploading. But that would require licenses.

“This whole upload thing just seems like a significant barrier to wide consumer adoption, because even with broadband it just takes a long time” to upload, said David Pakman, who invests in digital media start-ups for the venture capital firm Venrock, and helped found a similar music service, Myplay, in 1999.

But Amazon forced Google’s hand, he said. “If you’re faced with another six months of brutal negotiations and your competitor just launched this, you just get in the market and get a lot of users.”

Mr. Rosenberg characterized Music Beta as a first step in a broader cloud music service and said Google hoped to continue negotiating with the record labels to get licenses to offer other things, like a music store that sells songs or a service that suggests new music to listeners.

For Google, the new service is a way to compete with the iPhone by giving Android users the ability to easily use their music collections. Android users could previously store MP3 music files on their phones but it was a cumbersome process. Amazon’s service, Cloud Player, also works on Android phones, but stores many fewer songs free.

Since songs stored by Google will stream from the Web, they are not always as accessible as songs stored on iPods, because people can’t listen to them in places without data connections, like airplanes. But Google stores copies of recently played songs and certain songs that users choose for offline access.

The music labels have long argued that they should be paid when people listen to songs on various devices. Google, Amazon and Apple, along with start-ups like Spotify and the now-defunct Imeem, have struggled to strike agreements.

Apple is still expected to be working on such a service. It acquired Lala, a cloud music service, and built a data center in North Carolina that could store users’ music collections. It also has relationships with the labels through iTunes.

Google and Amazon, meanwhile, say they do not need licenses to store music for users and play songs on multiple devices because users upload the songs they own, just as they would if they backed up their computers. “This is really a personal storage service in the same way that you would put songs on an iPad or you would put songs on a backup hard drive, so this service does not involve licenses for the music industry,” Mr. Rosenberg said.

The service is invitation-only to start. Verizon Xoom owners will receive invitations and others can sign up at music.google.com. Users download an application to their computer and upload their music, which could take many hours. The songs will be available on any device linked to the user’s Google account using a mobile app or a Web-based player, as long as they support Flash, which excludes iPhones and iPads.

Users can store 20,000 songs free, as opposed to Amazon’s service, which stores up to 1,000 songs without charge.

The service syncs activity on different devices, so if users create playlists on their phones, the playlists will automatically show up on their computers.

“We looked at the power of Google to deliver a compelling cloud-based service and essentially married those technologies with what we felt was lacking in the Android experience up until now,” Mr. Rosenberg said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4cf8c25b1bb3799af5c242e97e9d19e7

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