News / Economy

Google Launches Streaming Music Service Ahead of Apple

Google Play
Google Play
Google Inc  launched a music service on Wednesday that allows users to listen to unlimited songs for $9.99 a month, challenging smaller companies like Pandora and Spotify in the market for streaming music.
With its new service, announced at its annual developers' conference in San Francisco, Google has adopted the streaming music business model ahead of rival Apple Inc, which pioneered online music purchases with iTunes.
Google's “All Access” service lets users customize song selections from 22 genres, ranging from Jazz to Indie music, stream individual playlists, or listen to a curated, radio-like stream that can be tweaked. It will be launched for U.S. users first, before being rolled out to several other countries.
Google unveiled a string of improvements to other services, including new mapping features and a voice-activated search, at the conference. The focus was on giving more options to users of mobile devices using its Android software, the operating system that now runs three out of every four smartphones sold.
Shares of Google, the world's largest Internet search company, jumped more than 3 percent while Pandora Media Inc shares were down more than 1 percent on Wednesday afternoon.
Google's new music service amps up the competition in the nascent market for subscription-based, streaming music. Inc and Apple are among the Silicon Valley powerhouses sounding out top recording industry executives, according to sources with knowledge of talks.
Pandora is spending freely and racking up losses to expand globally. Even social media stalwarts Facebook and Twitter are jumping onto the streaming-music bandwagon.
All these companies see a viable music streaming and subscription service as crucial to growing their presence in an exploding mobile environment. For Google and Apple, it is critical in ensuring users remain loyal to their mobile products.
With a music service, Google further “locks” consumers into its sphere of products and services, said Chris Silva, an analyst with Altimeter Group.
“They're trying to sell an ecosystem,” he said. “The more things I'm doing, the more things that tie me to Google services.”
At $9.99 a month, Google's service is costlier than the $3.99 required for Pandora, but on par with Spotify.
The music service features millions of tracks from Universal Music, Sony Entertainment Group and Warner Music Group, as well as from thousands of independent labels, according to a Google spokeswoman.
Some analysts said the new service allowed Google to catch-up to offerings from the likes of Spotify, but did not offer anything unique. Forrester analyst James McQuivey said combining the service with video or game content might have made it stand out.
“You don't dismiss Apple, you don't dismiss anyone. But that is not the point,” said Rich Tullo, an analyst at Albert Fried & Co. “Pandora is the market share leader in the space and their platform is so disruptive - it's very hard to disrupt them. When you have 70 million people use it - they are the disruptors.”
CEO appearance
A procession of Google executives described and showed off a litany of new features and software updates at the annual “I/O” developers' conference, from picture touch-ups on Google+ and re-designed Maps that spot when a user is walking or driving, to Star Trek-like voice-activated search that understands a users' sentences and figures out what he or she is looking for.
“We haven't seen this rate of change in computing for a long time - probably not since the birth of personal computing,” said CEO Larry Page, who began his address reflecting upon a significant moment in his life, when his father got him into a robotic science fair.
“We're really only at 1 percent of what's possible,” said Page, whose on-stage appearance came a day after he acknowledged suffering from a rare nerve problem affecting his vocal cords. The problem, which affects his breathing and makes it difficult for him to speak at length, sidelined Page from public speaking engagements last summer, though Page spoke for 45 minutes on stage on Wednesday.
Decrying a “negativity” in the technology industry which he said impedes progress, Page singled out competitors Microsoft Corp and Oracle Corp, criticizing the companies for not being sufficiently collaborative with Google and other companies. Google was sued by Oracle last year, and companies affiliated with Microsoft have complained about Google's practices to European antitrust regulators.
“Most important things are not zero sum,” Page said.

Lack of Glass
The conference comes as Google's Android software has become the most popular operating system in both smartphones and tablet PCs. Executives said Wednesday that some 900 million smartphones and tablets running Google Android software had been activated since the platform's inception in 2010
Google's popular mapping service, a mainstay of Android devices, features tighter integration with reviews off Zagat, the popular dining-reviews brand that Google bought last year. It also sports more pictures from inside important buildings, sourced from user-uploaded photos. It can now even display the earth realistically as viewed from outer space, something Page said he personally requested.
Shares in Yelp Inc, which like Zagat is built off users' personal reviews, slid 3.8 percent to $29.80 in the afternoon.
Conspicuously absent from the more than three-hour opening keynote session was any mention of Google Glass, the wearable computing device that the company began distributing to a limited set of early users and developers last month.
The futuristic-looking device has elicited admiration from many technology-lovers, but some have questioned whether the stamp-sized electronic screen mounted on eyeglass frames will appeal to mainstream consumers.
While many enthusiastic attendees and Google staffers strolled about the conference center sporting the Glass devices, executives spent little time discussing it on stage.
Google missed an opportunity to “show that they think they're onto something big,” said Forrester's McQuivey.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.