Google I/O 2011 marks the one year anniversary of the first time we were teased with Google Music, a service that will finally be unveiled later today. When it launches as an invite-only cloud-stored music streaming platform it will be dubbed Music Beta, and for good reason. Google is forging ahead with the announcement despite lack of cooperation with record labels. The tech giant apparently was unable to ink any deals with the music industry, a set back that stalled the launch of their music service month after month.
With the launch of Amazon’s Cloud Player and the threat of a cloud-based iTunes right around the corner, Google’s hand was forced. The company had to either delay Music even further and risk losing any chance to compete or take a page from Amazon’s book and bring their service out ahead of any deals with the big music houses.
The Music Beta service will allow users to upload 20,000 songs for streaming to their Android devices or a web-player built for Chrome. The storage space is measured per song rather than per gigabyte, and easily outpaces what Amazon is offering at the free level. The service is launching as invitation-only, with I/O attendees and owners of the Verizon Motorola XOOM getting first dibs.
But Google’s Music lacks one key feature that iTunes and Amazon share: the ability to purchase new songs. Google also lacks a supplemental library of tracks already stored in the cloud, meaning users must upload each and every song via a desktop application. To make things easier, Music Beta will use Google technology to attempt to determine what you will listen to the most and upload those songs first. The uploader can also automatically upload any new tracks added to your library.
We’ve been excited about Music for a while, but hearing that it will be launching as some half-baked version of what we saw at Google I/O last year takes the wind out of the sails a bit. Sure, this service will be great for all Android users and will get a ton of use, but if Google really wants to compete at the market level of iTunes they better hope that the non-licensed launch of Music spurs record labels into make deals quick, rather than the opposite. A backlash from labels against Google is the last thing the fledgling cloud platform needs.