Google Announces Music Streaming Service, Updates to Maps and Hangouts at I/O Conference


Google confirmed speculation that it would launch a music service at its annual I/O developer conference Wednesday. The internet giant announced Google Play Music All Access, a subscription-based service that is a little bit of Spotify, Pandora and Twitter #Music all in one. Apparently, the internet behemoth’s announcements went over well with Wall Street, as Google’s shares closed at a record high of $900, putting the company’s market cap over $300 billion. 

Unlike Google Music, its cloud music service that lets users upload up to 20,000 purchased songs to listen to on Android devices or on the web, the Google Play Music All Access subscription service launches it into direct competition with music streaming services like Spotify—which has 24 million active monthly users, 6 million paying subscribers and more than 20 million licensed songs in 28 countries—as well as Pandora. Though unlike either of the other services, Google’s All Access won’t have a free option. The service, which will be available across the web, mobile and tablets will cost $9.99 per month after a 30-day free trial. 

“It makes lots of sense for both YouTube and Play, which was built for Google’s Android devices, to sell music subscriptions,” notes AllThingsD. “YouTube is the world’s biggest free music service, which could make it a fantastic funnel for a Spotify-like paid offering, which can also help solve some problems with the music labels.”[more]

The service will feature “millions of songs you can play instantly, recommendations, charts and playlists, and instant radio stations,” according to TechCrunch. Ahead of the announcement, The Verge reported that Google had signed with Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, adding to its existing partnership with Warner Music Group that it established months earlier. The agreements between Google and the music companies will provide the new service with access to millions of songs, according to Google’s Chris Yerga. The deal also covers YouTube, where music videos are some of the most watched content.

Still, it won’t be an easy road for Google. While the move puts it out in front of Apple, who is reportedly launching its own music streaming service soon, services like Spotify and Pandora already have an established user base, with Pandora claiming an industry-leading 200 million registered and 70 million active monthly users for its internet radio service, while Spotify just launched a $10 million ad campaign in March to distinguish itself from the competition and secure a stronger foothold in the US. Both Pandora and Spotify offer free versions of its services, while Twitter #Music relies on a user’s existing service subscriptions for streaming.

Still, Google won’t have trouble finding users. YouTube has 1 billion monthly users and itself has recently introduced paid channel subscriptions, but the new music app will rely solely on web, Android and iOS users for an audience—at least for now. Google did not say that it planned to launch a version of All Access for the Windows phone or other mobile operating platforms, and with its relationship with Microsoft on the rocks, the partnership may never happen. Recently, the company sent a cease and desist letter to Microsoft demanding that it remove an unauthorized YouTube app from its Windows Phone Store, The Verge reports. The app, which was designed by Microsoft, not Google, disables ad playback and allows certain videos not authorized for play on mobile to play on the device, a move that cuts into Google’s revenue and that of its third-party content creators, and one that also violates its API’s Terms of Use. 

While Google Play Music All Access may have been the most anticipated announcement out of I/O, it wasn’t the only one. Google execs announced a redesign of Google Maps, which now integrates services from Google Earth and Street View, as well as local traffic and offer updates. It also unveiled improvements to its squandering social network Google+, with redesigned photos and interface and a rebranded Google Hangouts app, which is now a cross-platform, unified messaging system that allows users to text, video chat and send photos across its Android and iOS apps as well as Gmail and Google+, replacing all previously existing chat apps.