Thursday, 19 May 2011

Google Music Beta

Proving unable to come to an agreement with all the major labels for the music service it originally wanted, Google is going to pull an Amazon and unveil a digital music locker service without any licensing deals at all during a keynote Tuesday (May 10) at its I/O conference in San Francisco.

Called Music Beta by Google, the service will allow users to upload their music library to a personal online storage locker, from where they can stream and download files from Internet connected devices.

This is virtually identical to Amazon's Cloud Drive, with a few differences. Most notably, the service is available on a limited, invite-only basis limited to U.S. users. Those wanting to use the service will have to request an invite at, with priority given to those with the Motorola Xoom tablet and to attendees of the I/O conference. Additionally, Google is limiting the number of songs that can be uploaded to the music locker to 20,000. The service is free while in beta, and the company would not comment on what future pricing options it may have planned.

Clearly, this is not the music service Google wanted to offer. And Google director of content partnerships Zahavah Levine -- who led the company's negotiations with the major labels -- made it clear who she feels is to blame.

Other features of Music Beta by Google include:

-- Any Web-connected device with a browser or supporting Flash can stream music from the locker. Requires Android-powered devices with the app installed to download and play cached streams.

-- Users who sign up for the locker service will get free music added, similar to how some mp3 players ship with sample tracks. Google negotiated rights to this free music with various rightsholders.

-- All music available to each device is available in a single view, meaning users won't see one list for music stored native on the device and another list of music stored in the locker.

-- Audio quality for streaming files can be as high as 320kbps if the device and network supports it.

-- Optimized for Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) but any Android device version 2.2 or above can support it.

Levine stressed that many more features may be added to the service over time, and that Google will continue to seek licenses with the major labels.

"A large segment of the music industry worked cooperatively and was extremely helpful sorting out the issues of online licensing," she said, giving particular credit to the independent label and publishing communities. "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."

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