SAN FRANCISCO – Google May 10 took the wraps off of its Music Beta by Google streaming music service, the search engine’s bid to challenge Apple’s iTunes and Amazon.com music services.
Demonstrated at Google I/O, the company’s fourth annual conference for developers, Music Beta lets users upload their personal music collection to Google’s servers, which store it and stream it to users’ computers, Android tablets and smartphones.
The move is the latest bid for Google to shake up the market by cutting the cord on music downloads, storing users’ content in the cloud and provisioning it on demand to the user. Amazon in March launched its own Cloud Player that lets users upload their music library to Amazon Cloud Drive, and can save any new Amazon MP3 purchases directly to their Amazon Cloud Drive for free. The first 5GB are free. Enhanced storage plans start at $20 a year for 20GB. Apple is rumored to be delivering a cloud music service to complement iTunes later this year.
Google Product Manager Paul Joyce said during a demo that playlists uploaded to Music Beta by Google are automatically kept in sync, across computers, tablets and smartphones.
Joyce showed a feature called Instant Mix on a Motorola Xoom Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” tablet that lets users create a playlist of songs that go well together.
Users may also listen to their music when they are offline, as Google automatically stores a user’s most recently played music on their Android device. Those who didn’t watch the Google I/O webcast may see a demo in this Google blog post.
Music Beta by Google is launching in beta today to U.S. users, but like Gmail 7 years ago, is available only by invitation. Users will be able to upload up to 20,000 songs free for now. Google hasn’t said what, if anything, it would charge for the service when it’s properly polished.
Unfortunately, like Amazon, Google has not secured music labels’ permission for streaming the songs.
Jamie Rosenberg, Google’s director of digital content, argued that its approach is completely legal, that it is simply providing a music storage service for users. However, he allowed that labels were not receptive to Google’s service under its current iteration.
Google also said a more radical product is coming in the future: Project Tungsten, an Android device for Music Beta that lets users control music within the forthcoming Android@Home network the search engine is building.
Google Cloud Engineering Director Chris Yerga then showed off a new application on the Xoom tablet that lets users rent movies from the Android Market Webstore.
Like Google Books and applications before it, users may rent movies from the Android Market via their computer and watch them on their Android tablet or phone. As with YouTube Movies, Google is offering thousands of movies starting at $1.99.
Users may rent from Android Market on the Web today, but Google will be rolling out an update to Verizon Wireless’ Xoom customers today.