Today at Google I/O 2011 in San Francisco the search giant announced Google Music, a new cloud service that lets you host your musical collection online so you can listen to it anywhere, even offline. It’s really not all that different from what Amazon is currently doing with their Cloud Player service, except that Amazon also has an Mp3 store to purchase music and Google, oddly, does not.
The lack of a music store could seriously hurt Google’s efforts to compete with Apple and Amazon when it comes to transitioning consumers towards the cloud storage of their digital lives. Especially because Apple is currently laying down their own foundation, on top of the pieces already in place, which will transition them and their user-base to the cloud as well.
Still, the new service by Google, which will offer consumers the ability to upload close to 20,000 songs (roughly 80 GB) for free is an appealing option when compared to Amazon’s 5 GB of storage. That it also offers the option to create automatic playlists based upon some fancy Google algorithm might be a bonus as well depending how good those playlists turn out.
Anyone that’s attempted to use Apple’s Genius feature knows how disappointing automatic playlists can be.
Google tried to initially launch this service with the support of major record labels, but those talks broke down, and the company decided to forge ahead with the service anyways.
“Unfortunately, a couple of the major labels were less focused on the innovative vision that we put forward, and more interested in an unreasonable and unsustainable set of business terms,” Jamie Rosenberg, who oversees digital content and strategy for Google’s Android platform, told Peter Kafka. Not having the major labels support is really not that big of a deal if all you’re offering is an online storage locker and a web-based music player. But, down the road when Google needs an Mp3 store, they are still going to need to work with record labels.
The notion of a major label in music doesn’t mean much, despite what Universal, Sony, EMI and Warners would like to believe. There is plenty of territory for Google to carve out by aligning with smaller record labels like Subpop, Kill Rock Stars, Merge, Arts & Crafts, and Yep Rock, which may be willing to strike a favorable deal while offering Google plenty of good music to line it’s store with. You eventually get enough smaller to mid-size labels, and eventually the bigger ones will have to join the party.
It’s odd considering that in the same time period YouTube announced they were offering an additional 3,000 movies to their rental database, including “thousands of full-length feature films from major Hollywood studios.” Rentals started appearing today at “standard industry pricing,” (some are free, but most are either $2.99 for older movies and $3.99 for newer releases) and movie pages will be enhanced with Rotten Tomatoes reviews and video extras from around YouTube.
They also rolled out a link to live content and one for a “store” that seems to not be up and running yet.
Here’s an interesting tidbit from YouTube honcho Salar Kamangar: “You’re finding more and more of the content you love on YouTube, which is now available on 350 million devices. We know this because you’re watching videos to the tune of 2 billion views a day. But you’re spending just 15 minutes a day on YouTube, and spending five hours a day watching TV. As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, we think that’s going to change.”
So, somehow Google was able to secure support from Hollywood studios for movie rentals (not downloadable purchases though), but they weren’t able to secure support from record labels — even though the business terms form digital Mp3 downloads have been long established by both Apple and Amazon. Weird, right?
While the announcement of Google’s new music storage locker and online player coupled with the news that YouTube was expanding it’s content offerings should be greeted with applause, it’s also a sign that the pieces for Google just aren’t in place yet. Or rather, the pieces are there, but for whatever reason, they’re still scattered across various platforms.
Sure, it’s easy for tech nerds to debate the notion of open vs. closed platforms in relation to Google vs. Apple, but for consumers the debate is really about complete vs. incomplete. Apple has a complete system between their hardware, software and digital media store.
It’s not a hard formula to figure out. Once Amazon rolls out a iPad-like tablet they’ll have the same pieces in place as Apple. Yet Google still seems to be circling the target without putting their finger on it. They have a software OS, they have companies lined up to produce hardware, but they don’t have anyway for consumers to buy movies, music, television shows, magazines, or books. Or not yet effortlessly, anyways.
Why don’t they have a single Google Market yet? One place for consumers to buy Android apps, Mp3s, movies, books, amongst other digital media to use with their Android phones and tablets or to access on the web by logging into the Google account? You buy a movie and watch it through YouTube’s video player. Purchase Mp3s and boom there they are in your new Google Music player. Buy a book and it’s there to read through Google Books.
Once Google creates a way for people to buy media from a single location, which it certainly looks like they are trying to get to that place so we shouldn’t slag them too much, and automatically push it to their various services that’s all accessed and managed through a single Google log in account it’s going to be a happy day for consumers.
Just as long as you don’t mind things like having no privacy and data-mining. Minor squabbles.