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Google, Apple Need to Organize Streaming Music Market


The overcrowded media space is waiting for these tech giants to debut their services and set the standards.

Variety may be the spice of life, but for streaming music fans, a leader or even some assembly would be nice.

Media start-up mSpot became the latest participant in an overcrowded market by offering its free streaming music service to the public. The required invitations have been dropped and users are now able to sign up and install yet another method of storing their music libraries in the cloud before Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) debut theirs.

The mSpot desktop software runs on Windows (MSFT) and Mac machines and designates which music folders or albums are to be synced online. Any change made to an artist, track, album, or song rating is automatically reflected in the files stored on mSpot's servers. The online content can be accessed via Web browser -- Firefox, IE, Chrome, and Safari are all supported -- or an Android 2.1 device. BlackBerries (RIMM), Palms (PALM), and iPhones aren't supported at this time.

For Android phones, mSpot's streaming feature takes spotty coverage into account by locally storing tracks within a user-allotted space on your device, thus ensuring little to no breaks or buffering time when the user steps outside the range of a Wi-Fi or 3G network. While the company provides 2GB free to members, anything higher requires a monthly fee. But mSpot allows unlimited streaming of content for both free and paid accounts.

The newly public setup has already garnered positive reviews, and yet, this time next year mSpot -- and many of its ilk -- may not even be around.

Taking awfully long to bide their time, Apple and Google are expected to roll out their official music streaming services sometime this year. (See Google Music Will Soon Battle Apple's iTunes) Google Music -- as a leaked logo file claims it's called -- will debut with streaming capabilities intact, and Apple isn't far behind after acquiring Lala's cloud-based service and most likely implementing it into online iTunes libraries.

Unfortunately, every existing app and piece of streaming software -- your mSpots, your Rhapsodies, your Pandoras -- are counting the days before having to compete with a media juggernaut like Google or Apple. Not only have they entered the digital fray before a popular heavyweight emerges, their setups and file standards may not even be compatible with Google or Apple to allow a mutual existence.

That is, if they even let a smaller competitor play along.

As it stands, the streaming music market is pretty scattered. The burgeoning technology permits and supports a wide variety of approaches of getting your media online and accessing it remotely. Online storage space may or may not be needed, home computers may or may not need to be left on, constant Wi-Fi connection may or may not be required, and so forth. Although options are welcome in the tech world and a user can always switch from one app to the other, there needs to be widely adopted standard to see if a subsequent alternative is preferable. Right now, the variety of services is just confusing to most users.

Streaming media services are crossing their fingers and putting all their chips on the table before even seeing a roulette wheel. It's admirable that the little guys are pushing an industry forward, but whatever standard Google and Apple try to establish, it will likely trump most of the work done prior to them.
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