It looks like Google is about to beat Apple in the race to launch a new digital music service. Amazon launched its own cloud-based music service back in March.
According to Cnet, a test version of the service, which will allow users to upload their music to Google servers (aka the cloud), will be unveiled on Tuesday at Google’s I/O Developer Conference in San Francisco. The service will be free and initially available only in the US.
Cnet received word from Zahavah Levine, one of several Google executives overseeing the launch of the music service. “We’re launching a beta service called Music Beta by Google that lets users upload their personal music libraries to their own account on Google’s servers,” Levine said. Such a service will allow a user to access their music library music anytime and anywhere from a device connected to the Internet.
In a move similar to Amazon’s initial approach to licensing for its cloud-based music service (ie. to not have any), Levine told Cnet that although her company has spent the last year negotiating licenses with the big record companies, the initial launch will be without licensing from those companies. It’s not clear why this might be, or even whether negotiations with the record companies are ongoing, but it could substantiate reports last month indicating that talks between Google and record industry executives regarding licensing terms had “gone backwards.”
During the test phase of the new service, users will get to try it out by invitation only. So how can you get an invite? It seems that those present at the developer conference will have a decent chance, together with owners of Motorola’s Xoom tablet. The doors will then be thrown open for users to request an invitation online and hope for the best. iPhone users, however, won’t be able to use it on their device yet – the service, in the initial stages, requires Flash to run. The beta version will also not yet be available on phones running some versions of Android, according to Cnet.
Reports last month seemed to suggest Apple was on the verge of launching its own cloud-based music service ahead of Google. It looks increasingly likely, however, that Google is about to pip Apple to the post. It might be that Apple is keen on securing licensing deals with major music companies prior to launch, which could enable it to offer a more comprehensive service, such as the ability to share music with friends. Alternatively, it may simply follow in the footsteps of Amazon and Google and deal with those issues later. It certainly won’t want to let other companies get too much of a head start.