updated 03:50 pm EDT, Tue May 10, 2011
Google Music Beta and Movies go live
As part of the many launches at Google I/O day one, Google formally launched its first real steps into cloud media delivery. Music Beta lets users upload as many as 20,000 songs in their personal music collections that they can then stream from either a modern web browser or an Android phone or tablet. Offline music still plays a role despite rumors: recent tracks are automatically cached for later, and listeners can "pin" music to a mobile device to have a permanent copy for when an Internet connection isn't available.
The service also hopes to one-up Apple with a new intelligent playlist feature known as Instant Mix. Rather than using a crowd-sourced collection like iTunes, Music Beta 'listens' to the music and uses the sound of the music to automatically generate a playlist.
A Music Manager desktop app for Macs and Windows PCs lets users automatically grab and upload their iTunes or Windows Media Player collections to the cloud for use later.
Music Beta is currently limited to invitations only and the US. More areas should come later, Google said. The service is initially free, but Google hinted that it might start charging after the beta period ends. Updated apps should be available today for Android 2.2, 3.0, and later.
Google's already publicized YouTube movie service is also migrating to Android through Android Market. Visitors can rent from the 3,000 available movies and watch them either directly from the Android Market website or through a new Movies app for Android phones and tablets. As with Music Beta, movies can be pinned to store them locally.
Movies start at $2 to rent and give viewers up to 30 days to start watching. Motorola Xoom owners will be the first to see the Movies app with the Android 3.1 update appearing as soon as today, but Android 2.2 and later devices will have to wait for a separate app within the next two weeks.
During a question and answer session after the keynote, Google digital content head Jamie Rosenberg acknowledged that the company had taken a cue from Amazon and bypassed labels. The current service doesn't have a music store to automatically match songs and isn't intended as a complete backup. While limiting, this meant it was "completely legal" without approval, Rosenberg said.
He didn't get into rumors of label talks backfiring but did admit that Google reached an impasse with two music labels. Executives chose to go without the store entirely rather than limit it to independents.
The service has technically beaten Apple's iCloud but may be trumped in features. Apple is believed to have made more progress with labels and may have a full service that would save music owners the trouble of re-uploading content iTunes already knows and letting them get their songs more easily if they lose a collection.