In our last update, we discussed Amazon’s new cloud based music service. In this blog we discuss competing services from Apple and Google.
Although they have been promoting it for the last several months, Google has only made its beta (trial) service available by invitation only. The beta service is free, but it will be available to everyone for a price yet to be determined. Like Amazon, you can store music on a server (in the cloud) and access your songs from any compatible device including computers, tablets such as an iPad and mobile phones through the Android app. Google limits the number of portable devices a user can stream from to a total of eight. Like Amazon, you must first download software which allows you to upload the music. Google’s software is called Music Manager and can be downloaded to any computer.
Google’s music cloud will hold 20,000 songs whereas Amazon only holds about 2,000 with the option to purchase more space. However, the process of uploading 20,000 music files has reported to take several hours to several days. Google gives a user more file options for uploading including the following types: MP3, AAC, WMA and FLAC files. Amazon only allows MP3 and AAC.
Something different from Amazon’s service is the ability to play songs from the cloud offline. Though you need an Internet connection to initially access the music, once you play the songs, they are available to the user to replay offline, or the user can select “available offline” so that the particular song can be played without Internet access. The user can also add songs from multiple playlists including uploading your entire iTunes library or uploading music files saved on your computer. Google also has a feature that automatically uploads recently purchased music to the cloud. This is a feature that Amazon does not share. Another feature that Amazon does not share is Google’s “Instant Mix” which creates new playlists from your existing songs that Google thinks go well together. The way it works is the user selects a song from their library and Instant Mix will build a playlist based on similar songs also in your library. Billboard reported that Instant Mix was not such a hot feature, as it creates playlists of songs that a user would not realistically consider putting together and are from vastly different music genres.
Next week Apple will launch its cloud based music service called iCloud. Apple has not announced any of the features that iCloud will possess. It has been reported that Steve Jobs is keeping the features under wraps until the World Wide Developers Conference next week.
It has been reported that Google is in talks with the 4 major record labels to negotiate licensing deals, but as is the case with Amazon, no deals have been inked. Due to this fact, Google cannot sell music though it has an option to “shop for an artist.” If a user clicks on this option, they will be redirected to Google.com. Apple however, has sealed licensing deals with 3 out of the 4 major labels including: EMI, Sony and Warner. These deals have put Apple at advantage over both Amazon and Google. Apple still has to clear publishing which reports say should not be a problem given Job’s many industry connections.
Google already offers a cloud based service, Google Docs, which allows one to upload and save documents online . It will be interesting to see which service consumers gravitate towards. Both Google and Apple have existing popularity, Google with Google Docs and Apple with iTunes and its portable devices. Consumers concerned with legality are probably more likely to gravitate towards iCloud since Apple has licenses with 3 of the majors. Given Apple’s popularity with iTunes and with its technological portable devices, it’s seems Apple has the power to pull in the majority of music listeners.