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How Apple Could Defeat Google Music
May 11, 2011 10:13 AM
At yesterday's keynote presentation at its I/O convention,
Google announced a wealth of new ideas
coming down the Android pipeline. And among them, the highly anticipated Google Music service which throws everyone's music library online -- streamable and accessible anywhere. It frees up everyone's still-limited storage space on their smartphones and provides a better-than-decent online music player to organize their collections.
So why are some analysts giving it decidedly mixed reviews?
Ben Sisario at the
New York Times
said it "
fell short of ambition
." Gizmodo's Mat Honan
decried the limitations
of the service. While some bloggers,
like Lifehacker's Whitson Gordon
, refer to Google Music as "a joy to use" with "some nice touches," others focus on its shortcomings.
And here's where Apple can capitalize on those gaps in quality.
Similar to Amazon's Cloud Drive, users upload their MP3s to the Google Music's cloud to access them on other devices. For those with large collections, it'll be a pain, for sure. Definitely set aside a few days to get everything up and running. And unfortunately, this isn't the process Google had hoped for.
According to Billboard
, the company intended on having a "scan-and-match" feature set in place where user libraries were scanned -- rather than uploaded -- and a centralized server simply matched the tracks to what you already owned. But talks with major labels like Sony Music and Universal Music Group broke down and prevented music licensing at launch time.
Apple, on the other hand, is in deep with the labels. And while record execs are notorious for being a prickly bunch of greedy technophobes, Apple already has music licenses well-established and could negotiate a deal which allows for scanning and matching -- something that Lala.com did quite well before it was acquired by Cupertino. If Apple is able to get its "iTunes in the Cloud" service running without users having to upload gigabytes of files, it'll be a definite plus for Steve Jobs and Company.
Also, without licensing, Google Music doesn't come with an online music store -- something that puts it behind even Amazon's Cloud Drive. A cloud-based iTunes would likely bear no difference to the format users are already familiar with and provice easy in-app purchases. It may not be that big of a deal for some Google Music users to simply acquire their music elsewhere, but the convenience in Apple's cloud might sway less technical users who prefer the ease of integrated shopping.
And while this could easily be introduced down the line, Google Music lacks a music discovery service -- a missing feature which Gizmodo's Honan focuses on. "[It's] still an island. It's still a self-contained unit. You have to manage it yourself. It won't grow unless you manually add tracks to it. There's no serendipitous discovery. No social component. No Pandora or Last.fm-style suggestions that drop tracks you've never heard before, but already love. Google isn't offering you a vast, new catalog. It's just offering to hold your [bleep] for you."
The iTunes social network Ping may be an unmitigated disaster, but it's one step closer to effectively discovering music within an online community. Yes, it'll take more than a few tweaks to make it palatable, but Apple's got the head start. Integrate
-style lists of Similar Artists, Influenced By, and Followers, and you have a rock-solid music discovery service.
And finally, Google Music is free... for now. The company noted that while Google Music remains in beta, there will be no fees. OK, but what happens after? Users pay by the storage space? By the data transfer? Flat monthly fees for unlimited use? We're already able to enjoy numerous streaming music services for free -- not to mention the music we've paid for that's already sitting on our smartphone. Another monthly service fee doesn't sit well with us.
Should Apple debut its online digital locker for free around the time Google Music begins introducing fees, the fallout could be huge, to the point where many Android users actually abandon the platform and opt for an iPhone. That's pretty extreme, granted, but when most of us use our smartphones as MP3 players now -- and given the magnitude of a free online music library -- the difference between "pay" and "free" is substantial.
Nevertheless, Google Music is still in beta, still invite-only, and still testing the waters. Countless changes can be coming in the near future -- for better or worse. And while Google scores points for bringing an online music cloud to market before Apple, it also tipped its hand to Cupertino and allowed for a significant amount of time for one-upmanship.
And who better to do that than Apple?
Google Reveals the Future of Android
AT&T: No New iPhone Before August
For an investment angle on these and many more tech stocks, take a
FREE trial to the TechStrat Report
by Sean Udall.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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