UPDATE: The announcement of Music Beta came right on the heels of the news on Android 3.1 and Ice Cream Sandwich. Ultimately, the initial reveal from earlier today covered the highlights. A few further details:
Further release information was vague, with wider release planned during the "next couple of weeks."
Google is preparing to launch a new cloud-based music service known as Music Beta. The intriguing new service, set to compete with the Amazon Cloud Player, will first be available exclusively to Motorola Xoom users.
The Motorola Xoom was the first ever device to run Google’s tablet-optimized Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) OS. Aside from providing Android fans with an exclusive first look at Honeycomb, it appears that the Xoom will continue on as Google’s development device, and enjoy another period of exclusivity with Music Beta by Google.
The service at its debut will be invitation-only, with all Motorola Xoom owners automatically included on the invite list.
Details on Music Beta by Google
Full details are still pending, as Google has yet to officially announce Music Beta. Things will be illuminated later today (May 10), when a full announcement comes at the Google I/O developers’ conference.
Some major details have already emerged. The New York Times reports that Music Beta will be able to hold up to 20,000 songs and that only devices with Flash support will be able to use the service. This excludes Apple devices from the service, as neither the iPad, iPad 2, nor iPhone support Flash.
Users will also be able to manage their music from their mobile devices, and could, for example, create a playlist on their phone or tablet that would then be available later on their PC. Additionally, users can choose a certain selection of songs to be available offline, and Google will also make recently played songs available, just in case someone gets caught without Wi-Fi or a data connection.
There is one other major note on the service that has so far been released, and it is disappointing and could severely hinder the overall usability of Music Beta: record labels have not agreed to cooperate and back Google, and without appropriate music licenses, Music Beta will not be able to truly spread its wings.
Why Google's Head Is in the Cloud
The main appeal of a cloud based music service is that it allows users to upload and maintain their music library in one centralized, always-available location. Using a cloud player, a person’s music library will be available to them not only on their PC, but across their entire range of mobile devices (as long as they have an internet connection).
In an increasingly mobile world, cloud music players become very appealing as they give users access to large quantities of music without having to have it stored on any specific device. Most tablets and smartphones have a limited amount of onboard memory, and a cloud player saves these precious gigabytes from being bogged down by the thousands of songs in one’s library that they would want available on the go.
How Lacking Label Cooperation Affects Music Beta
Without music labels in its corner, Google cannot allow users to share songs with friends, allow for personalized recommendations, let users purchase music in the cloud, or provide an online library (as opposed to users having to upload all of their music). These opportunities, among other, are just a few of the potential features lost by the tech and music industries inabilities to get along.
Google vs. Amazon
There will certainly be differences in interface, and probably some small differences in terms of functions and little details. The really notable distinguishing factor between Music Beta by Google and the Amazon Cloud Player is that Google will offer significantly more space.
The Amazon Cloud Player offers 5GB of free storage, or what the New York Times estimates to be about 1,000 songs. Since Google will offer room for 20,000 songs for free, math suggests that Google will be offering 100GB to its users.
Amazon also has a plan that offers 20GB, but it requires a user to buy an MP3 album from Amazon’s store.
Full release information is not currently available, and it is not known how long until folks who aren’t Xoom users or attending the I/O concert will be able to access the service. Some sort of timeframe should be provided with the official announcement later today.
Source: The New York Times
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