Three things to watch: How Apple could help Google become a cloud music contender

Three things to watch: How Apple could help Google become a cloud music contender

Summary: Apple has the potential to dominate cloud music - but just a few missteps could be all the room that Google needs to come in and be a serious contender.


Apple hasn’t even announced a cloud music service yet and already the bar has been raised, with the iCloud - or whatever Apple ends up calling it - fast becoming the one to beat. In part, that’s because Apple, according to reports, has already sealed deals with three of the 4 major record labels and is gearing up to make its cloud music announcement next month.

Also: Apple sets up cloud music deals: Fends off Amazon, Google

Even though Google jumped into the game before Apple, it’s clearly the underdog here. The cloud Music product it announced at Google I/O earlier this month is a bare-bones, invitation-only beta offering that is nothing more than an interface to manage tracks and playlists. It needs a lot of work.

Apple, on the other hand, has a huge advantage in the digital music game because of its success with iTunes and the iPod. Consumers are already invested in iTunes - and shifting them over to a cloud model should be a snap.

But the cloud also changes the way the game is played. And if Apple misses the mark or otherwise alienates some of that iTunes base, there’s a chance that Google will find its open window to gain some traction. After all, that’s really what this is about - challenging Apple, not beating Apple.

Apple clearly dominated digital music, largely because of the mainstream success of the iPod. But when Apple locked itself into an exclusive deal with AT&T for the iPhone in the U.S., it gave Google the opportunity it needed to develop Android into a solid competitor. That same window of opportunity is what Google - as well as Amazon, which launched its own cloud music offering weeks before Google - needs to develop a cloud music model that can give Apple a run for its money.

I’ll be on the lookout for three key things when Apple makes its cloud music announcement, watching for these open windows.

Pricing: Rumor also has it that there may be a subscription fee for the music cloud service. This could be a deal-breaker. I’m not too big on fees, especially when 1) a large chunk of the music I want to play is music that I’ve already purchased, 2) I’ll already be paying for tracks that I buy through iTunes, and 3) I also paid a pretty penny for the mobile device that I’m using to access that music. Haven’t I paid enough?

One other thing: I’m not big on renting music, either - a la Apple TV. If, for some reason, I decide to leave the service or stop paying down the road, I would want to keep the music I already paid for. That model of continuing to pay just to access music you’ve previously paid for is no good.

Capacity: Apple is big on tiered pricing based on storage. A 16 GB iPhone will cost you $199 while 32 GB will set you back $299. It was that way for the iPod, as well. But how does this play out in the cloud? Is that where the fees come in? There are plenty of people out there who have massive digital music collections, not to mention what they’re doing with photos and video. I’m really interested in seeing how Apple handles this.

Devices: Will Apple’s cloud only be accessible by Apple devices? Better yet, will there be a cloud music app for the Android, Blackberry and other non-Apple device holders? One of the reasons that iTunes and the iPod saw such amazing growth was because of its compatibility with Windows. Sure, there’s a huge install base of iPhone users - but the Android army certainly can’t be ignored, either.

Google Music Beta - Android

Google Music Beta - Android

Google’s Music cloud offering still needs a lot of work, more than just deals with the record labels. The company is already offering free storage for 20,000 tracks - a move that takes the worry out of slicing and dicing a music catalog to make it fit into the 5 GB that Amazon, for example, is giving away. But uploading that music to the cloud was a long, painful process (one that Apple may be addressing with its “scan and match” technology.)

With the Google cloud, I can catalog music from any source - iTunes purchases, Amazon purchases and even ripped CDs. And I can play it back from any browser or up to eight devices. That’s really what matters to me. I like iTunes and have a lot of time, energy and money invested in a hearty iTunes library - but the flexibility of the playback means a lot more to me now.

For now, I’m excited about what Apple has to offer - but I am hesitant, worried about Apple’s closed nature and wondering if the company might try to put me, my music and my wallet on lockdown inside a walled garden of Apple Music.

If that happens, consumers may find themselves suddenly much more interested in what Google might have to offer.


Topics: Google, Apple, Hardware, Mobility

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  • agreed

    I think renting music is absurd. That is what the records wanted Google to do, and google refused. I know how to get the music, give me storage, I will b happy.
    • 'renting' music

      I happen to like 'renting' music, if by that you are referring to a subscription service like Rhapsody.

      I hope that either Google or Amazon eventually offer something like that (Rhapsody isn't available in my country).
    • RE: Three things to watch: How Apple could help Google become a cloud music contender

      @tatiGmail I'm using Zune myself and thoroughly addicted to any music I want on demand.
    • Rent to buy

      unlimited music, while keeping 10 a month for no extra charge is good concept.
      Tim Cook
    • @tatiGmail: Renting music works very well for the Spotify model.

      @tatiGmail: Renting music works very well for the Spotify model.

      I pay a flat fee of ?9.99 a month and can access any music I like. This is impossible with iTunes pay per what you buy model. It would cost me significantly more than ?10 a month to access the same amount of music through iTunes.

      Who cares if I'm renting or technically own it? These companies aren't going anywhere.

      The only serious downside with Spotify is I cannot use it in my car (mobile is catered for), for that I still use MP3s but it's a pain the neck compared with the simplicity and immediacy of Spotify.
      • @bradavon Renting music works very well for the Spotify model.

        @bradavon what do you mean 'mobile is catered for'? If you're driving you can still use your data on your phone right? Then you can just plug up your phone to your stereo system to your car and still use Spotify. And I'm sure it probably even has an offline listening mode.
      • RE: Three things to watch: How Apple could help Google become a cloud music contender

        @bradavon It would cost you significantly more the first month and so on but as time went buy you would spend less on tracks as you already own them. Not saying that it's a better model than renting for you, but the fact is you wouldn't have to buy the same tracks over and over.
    • RE: Three things to watch: How Apple could help Google become a cloud music contender

      Well, for me, a Rhapsody user, I wouldn't change it for a thing. I absolutely love the subscription concept, works very well for me, and it gives me the ability to "use" thousands of songs I would never even consider buying, and yet I can buy music I really want to own (for whatever odd reason nowdays), plus I tend to buy it on CD. Frankly, I used to be a "must own it" personality, and now, after years w/ Rhapsody, I could care less about "owning" much of the music I listen to.
  • RE: Three things to watch: How Apple could help Google become a cloud music contender

    Scan and match is a scam.
  • You'll never see an Apple

    It's one thing to say that iTunes for Windows led to the iPod's success, but where's the upside to making it easy for Android devices to stream music from an Apple cloud? Apple is doing this, like everything other service it offers, to help sell Apple hardware. Apple's approach will surely be "this is <i>another</i> reason your next smartphone should be an iPhone." Apple's core philosophy is that the money is in the hardware, the software services exist to drive the sales of the hardware.
    • @matthew_maurice: Agreed. You're spot on.

      @matthew_maurice: Agreed. You're spot on. It's the software that sells the hardware but the hardware sales that Apple is interested in.
  • i think, therefore i is.

    Hello there how are you, I think this is a wonderful thing.

    I'm the tea lady here at Netvillage and the little sods are so looking forward to it.

    I hear a lot of what they talk about with their social networking customers and almost anything "i" can be turned into gold with Apple.

    But what do I know, I better get a move on, I?ve got scones in the oven.

    Bye bye,
    the tea lady.
    the Tea Lady
  • Apple's arrogance will be their undoing.

    The reason iTunes/iPod was such a success is because you didn't need a Mac. Most iPod users are Windows PC owners.
  • How is this a new idea? Zune gives you a ton of music on their subscriptio

    How is this a new idea? Zune gives you a ton of music on their subscriptio
    • And Zune is so successful.

      @IUseComputers That it was canceled TWICE.
      • great service

        @wackoae: cancelled how? I've been using it for years without interruption. I love it: I've discovered (and subsequently bought) lots of music I wouldn't have found otherwise.
    • Yeah...

      @IUseComputers <br><br>Shh!!! Don't upset the Applets with posts about reality.<br><br>You should know nothing is worth having until Apple comes along an "innovates" it.
      Hallowed are the Ori
  • RE: Three things to watch: How Apple could help Google become a cloud music contender

    Nothing for Apple to fear. The cloud is seen as a secondary option, native storage and native access will continue to be the primary option for most consumers for the foreseeable future. Besides who want's to spend weeks uploading their collection to some storage locker.
    • RE: Three things to watch: How Apple could help Google become a cloud music contender

      @dave95. With scan and match they will not have to spend weeks.

      They just upload a text file that contain list of songs that are on there hard drives, and a few other bits of meta data about that song. An if it on Apple list they can play it from Apple servers.

      That why essential that Apple gets everyone aboard with the service.
  • RE: Three things to watch: How Apple could help Google become a cloud music contender

    The iPod was successful because iTunes took over the music world post napster. They were the first and most successful. It isn't rocket science. They have lived off of that success for a long time.