A Silicon Valley company is trying to get a jump start on what many suspect may be Apple's next music move: an online streaming music service that unleashes your personal library.
The company, called mSpot, will debut a streaming music service at the Google I/O developer's conference later today. For about a month, the service will be in private, invitation-only beta. It will go public next month.
At its core, the service is synchronizing the user's personal music library to the cloud where the user can then access it from any browser on any PC or Mac - just as they might with web-based mail. The service also syncs to Android-based mobile phone (with more platforms coming soon) to stream personal playlists and tracks while on-the-go.
As an added bonus, your personal music collection is now stored on the cloud, though the company doesn't think of itself as a backup or even online storage service. The free version allows only 2 gigabytes of music to be stored online, which makes it more like a sync service that allows users to change their Web-based playlists the same way they might change what's on their iPods.
The company is also planning a 10 gigabyte and 20 gigabyte premium service for $2.99 and $4.99 respectively. It's also still tossing around the idea of an unlimited storage plan, though - again - it doesn't consider itself to be an online storage locker for music.
It may sound simple enough but the getting to this point was no picnic. Because the record labels are such sticklers about sharing, the company imposed restrictions that limit the playback. For example, the streams can only be pushed to one PC or Mac at a time but will allow up to three mobile devices to stream simultaneously. Also, it will not stream DRM-protected files but will stream any others, including mp3, wav and non-DRM AAC files.
Finally, the technology is smart enough to know when users are streaming over WiFi or 3G, compensating by buffering ahead in the playlist so that the music won't be subject to hicupps simply because the data connection is hit-and-miss. In a statement, CEO Daren Tsui said:
We recognize that portability is key to a compelling music experience for consumers, and the biggest challenge for music cloud services to tackle today. mSpot has spent the past five years perfecting its proprietary over-the-air delivery technology so music plays from the cloud so fast it feels local - even when cell coverage is spotty or non-existent.
There's been speculation that Apple's purchase - and later shuttering - of Lala.com means that the company is planning to launch a cloud-based or streaming service tied to iTunes. Apple hasn't confirmed that but the company could have something like this in the works for its Worldwide Developer's Conference, which is being held in San Francisco next month.
What strikes me as particularly compelling is how mSpot - which already offers streaming movie tools for mobile devices - could potentially turn any Web-connected smartphone into an iPhone. After all, the biggest difference between my Droid Incredible and the iPhone is the ease in which the iPhone also syncs music and other multimedia content.
Once I can easily sync and listen to music on the mobile phone of my choosing, I can't imagine why I would need an iPhone - or an iPod, for that matter.