updated 09:35 pm EDT, Mon May 9, 2011
Google cloud music due to appear at Google IO
(Update: technical details) Google Music will finally get its official showing at Google I/O and should take a cue from Amazon in challenging music labels. Managers said Monday night that the service, Music Beta, would follow Amazon Cloud Player and go without a label license. The system described to the NYT would be "passive" and require both that users upload their own music and stream, but not download, the content they own.
The method would help Google skip the rapidly deteriorating negotiations it has had to try and get an "active" cloud service, where songs just need to be checked against a database and listeners can download permanent copies of tracks they own. Labels have tried to argue that any remote storage entitles them to double-dipping on revenues as a second use.
A presentation was set for Google I/O and could even take place on Tuesday at the day one keynote. In spite of showing the service roughly a year after it had been teased at last year's I/O, however, it would reportedly be limited to a testing phase and wouldn't go live for the public. Android phones and tablets should be part of the initial release.
Google is likely in a race with Apple and may now end up losing to the rumored iCloud service. Apple is still believed in talks with labels, but its service would be much fuller and may be an active service that gives listeners true sync across all their devices. The North Carolina datacenter going live this spring is known to play a part and could be active by WWDC in early June.
Some signs have emerged that Google had previously been overly optimistic about its plans, and even in March had Android 2.3 builds with music syncing built-in that wouldn't be allowed under the newly rumored passive cloud.
Update: Music Beta will initially require Flash and will therefore be limited to desktop browsers and some, not all, Android 2.2 or later devices. The requirement might preclude mobile use because of Flash's heavy battery drain.