Commentary

Google Gets Down With Music In The Cloud

After a year of convincing music moguls to get on their cloud, Google finally queued up the music yesterday with an exclusive offer on some Rolling Stone concert bootlegs and an invitation-only party in L.A. that attracted “a colorful crowd of hipsters and music executives” who listened to live performances by Monogold and Busta Rhymes at the Hollywood studio of Mr. Brainwash, Alex Pham writes in the Los Angeles Times.

The Google Music service “will sell individual tracks and full albums, letting customers store the songs on servers, on so-called cloud accounts. And through an integration with Google’s nascent social network, Google+, the company will also let customers share music by offering friends one free listen to any bought track,” reports Ben Sisario in the New York Times Media Decoder blog.

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Users can upload up to 20,000 songs from their own digital libraries or purchase tune at Google’s existing online storefront for digital apps, books and movies, Android Market. They can also listen to 90-second previews, Rolling Stonereports.

Universal, EMI, Sony and Merlin Network are part of the Google Music party. But Warner, the No. 3 label with 20% of the world's music inventory, is still negotiating with Google. Those talks are in an early stage, according to a Reuters source.

“Content is key” to “Google's broader strategy to maintain its grip on a worldwide online audience that has migrated beyond computers … to tablets and smartphones, Pham writes.

"The thing that drives sales of devices is the content,” NPD Group analyst Russ Crupnick tells Pham. It's less about the music, and more about wanting to own the entertainment experience on these technology platforms."

Pham also points out that Google will need a chunk of its considerable resources to compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon in the retail arena. "The bar in this field is high," says Gartner digital media analyst Mike McGuire. "Amazon and iTunes are really good at taking our money."

And Gartner’s Michael Gartenberg tells the New York Times that Google must make its “ecosystem appeal to consumers in a way that Amazon and Apple have. Personal cloud services are what’s going to drive the next wave of consumer adoption. So Google has to be playing here. But because they’re so late they have to be playing here in a unique way.”

Reaction to the service has been mixed. “As it stands now in beta, Google Music is just a cloud locker for the stuff you already have -- a way to listen to your library from any computer or via iOS/Android app,” writes Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle, who neatly summarizes the services features and concludes “at the very least, Google Music will mean there are three viable online music options, instead of two.”

“Don’t Be Too Disappointed By Google Music’s Lackluster Debut,” reads the Techcrunch headline. “There are two things the critics decline to acknowledge: that Google is providing a simple, free service, and that all Google products start out underwhelming and gradually expand,” Devin Coldewey writes.

But Crowley also points out two things that could spell Google Music’s demise down the line: a possible antitrust-type investigation (“something Google is always in the middle of”) and the fact that “a simple music locker, while useful to some, isn’t going to pull in a lot of money or users.”

What’s even more ethereal than Google’s cloud? The “top-secret lab in an undisclosed Bay Area location where robots run free, [and] the future is being imagined,” as Claire Cain Miller and Nick Bilton disclosed in the New York Times on Monday. “It’s a place where your refrigerator could be connected to the Internet, so it could order groceries when they ran low. Your dinner plate could post to a social network what you’re eating. Your robot could go to the office while you stay home in your pajamas. And you could, perhaps, take an elevator to outer space.”

While I’m sure robots can copy and paste just as well as the next news aggregator, hopefully they’ve got a ways to go before they can sign off with an ironic twist.

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