Google Plays A New Tune

If indeed “it don’t mean a thing/if you ain’t got that swing,” Google got a lot brassier yesterday with its announcement of an All Access subscription music service on Google Play that not only will compete with innovative but far smaller rivals such as Spotify, Rdio and Pandora -- but more tellingly, “has stolen a march on Apple,” as Richard Waters and Tim Bradshaw put it in the Financial Times.

“Google’s success in winning over music labels to license their songs for its new subscription service … marks a symbolic victory against Apple, which pioneered the commercial digital market…,” Waters and Bradshaw write. “Though still the dominant force in digital music, Apple has yet to break into the fastest-growing part of the digital music market and match newer streaming services based on subscriptions or internet radio.”

Google Play Music All Access -- the formal name that the service “is labouring under,” as the Guardianquips -- intends to be all things to all people. “You can enjoy unlimited listening to millions of songs, create custom radio and skip as much as you want,” as the Web site put it. But unlike just about everything else Google that isn’t hardware, it will cost you. All Access will be $7.99 a month for those who sign up before June 30; $9.99 thereafter. There’s a 30-day free trial.

"People can access specific songs they want, similar to Spotify AB's service, and can create a 'radio station' that continuously plays music of a particular genre, a format pioneered by Pandora Media,” writes Amir Efrati in The Wall Street Journal, which first wrote about the new service Tuesday. But “unlike Google's service, Spotify and Pandora have free, ad-supported versions in addition to paid ones,” Efrati points out.

“Google just became the 800-pound gorilla in the streaming music world,” writes’s Suzanne Choney.

It's “radio without rules,” Chris Yerga, engineering director at Android, told the developers, Choney reports. “It's as lean-back as you want to, or as interactive as you want.”

What may set it apart from other services, writesRolling Stones’ Benjy Eisen, is “its ability to find music that is unfamiliar to the listener. All Access ‘blends’ users' music libraries with Google's extensive databank, and it harnesses Google's wide user data to offer personal suggestions and predict direct hits based on past history, social circles and additional collected information.”

Google touted and tooted other bells and whistles yesterday at the kickoff of its I/O 2013 conference for developers.

“I’m still digesting Google’s 3.5-hour Google I/O 2013 keynote, but I can’t shake the notion that Google is now the world’s most powerful and important company,” writes Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff. It’s not about any single product, “it’s more about the vast number of technologies and, mostly, data Google has at its fingertips and how, perhaps for the first time ever, it’s leveraging it all for an increasingly unified set of products and services.”

Claire Cain Miller, writing in The New York Times, ledes with an escalation of “the map wars” presumably touched off by Google’s unveiling of the “biggest redesign” of Google Maps since the desktop service made its debut a mere eight years ago.

“The future of search starts with maps,” BlueRun Ventures partner John Malloy tells her. Malloy’s firm is an investor in Waze, “a crowd-sourced mapping service that Facebook has shown interest in acquiring.”

As Miller points out in a separate piece, “when users who are logged in to Google visit Maps, they will see highlighted the places they frequently visit, like restaurants, museums and their home and office.” And if you search for, say, an eatery, the result -– and perhaps an ad or  coupon –- will show on the map.

Jared Newman bullet points most of the other announcements in Time –- many of them incremental “improvements to core Web services” -- and observes that “If there’s a common thread … it’s that Google is trying to make all its services stickier.”

And if Siri hasn’t driven you crazy already, you can try your inquisitive voice with a new desktop voice search function for Google Search on Chrome. As Time’s Harry McCracken reports, all you have to do is say “Okay, Google,” and it will be prepared to not only answer a query such as “what is the population of Canada?,” it will also try to anticipate your follow-up questions by, in McCracken’s example, offering a graph of how that population has changed over time.

I cannot wait to see the responses to such queries as: “Okay, Google, how do I close this column?”

Next story loading loading..