Google Music hits the Android market

Google has finally opened its online music offering, via its Android store, to US residents after months of beta testing.

“Today we are happy to announce you can buy millions of songs right from Android Market,” Google product manager Paul Joyce said at Google’s Android event.

At the moment users can only purchase music via a desktop web browser but the internet giant is set to rollout the service for Android devices in the coming days.

The beta version of Google Music was launched earlier this year. The service allows users to store personal music collections in the “cloud” for streaming to smartphones, tablet computers and other devices.

Google avoided having to cut deals with music labels at the time, by letting people store digital versions of songs they already own in online “lockers” which they can access using devices linked to the internet.

Google has now signed three of the four major record labels — Universal, EMI, and Sony Music — with the one signficant holdout being Warner Music, home to Madonna and other artists.

“Doing a deal with Google for the sale of our repertoire is groundbreaking on a number of levels,” said Robert Wells, president of global digital business at Universal Music.

“We expect this to be a rich new revenue stream for our artists,” Wells added.

Coldplay, Shakira, and the Rolling Stones teamed with Google to celebrate the music store launch by making free or exclusive tracks available.

One perk of the new service is the ability to share songs bought at the Android music shop with friends on the Google+ social network for one-time listening.

“Any new legitimate place to consume music is a fantastic antipiracy tool,” Wells said.

Google is weaving in videos from YouTube as the technology colossus combines its widely used services for better leverage to unseat Apple from its throne in the digital music industry.

Google designed the store to allow independent musicians to be able to sell songs at prices of their choosing through an Artist Hub.

An unrepresented artist can pay a one-time fee of US$25 to set up account and then give Google a 30% share of revenue from music sales.

“We think it will be a significant new music destination in the digital space,” said Merlin chief executive Charles Caldas, whose company specializes in helping independent musicians thrive.

A nice feature that Google has added is the ability to share songs bought at the Android music shop with friends on Google+.

As many as 20 000 songs can be stored at Google Music, which was pitched as “a completely legal” service akin to a person storing music collections on home computer hard drives.

Google Music is in direct competition with similar service launched in March by internet retail powerhouse, and the online music king, Apple’s iTunes store.

“This is something Google needed to do if the Android platform is to be taken seriously,” said Gartner Research analyst Michael Gartenberg.

“Music is now table stakes,” he continued. “Google hasn’t really raised the bar here, but you have to start somewhere.”

Though Google Music might not come across as a major threat to iTunes, it will no doubt act as a lure that adds to Android’s brisk momentum, said to the analyst.

More than 200-million Android mobile gadgets have been activated worldwide, according to Google.

Google Music store requires Android 2.2 or higher to work. The company also released a new web version of its music player that is compatible with all browsers, including iOS.

Google is yet to announce when the service will be available for to the rest of the world.



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