Google unveils streaming music plan
By MICHAEL LIEDTKE
SAN FRANCISCO — Google on Wednesday launched a subscription-based music service, allowing users of Android phones and tablets to listen to their favorite songs and artists for a monthly fee.
The streaming service, called All Access, is available in the U.S. for $9.99 per month after a 30-day free trial. It will be available in other countries later. For those who start the trial by June 30, the monthly fee is $7.99.
All Access will be competing with Spotify, Rhapsody, Pandora and other popular music services. Apple, the biggest seller of online music, does not have a subscription-based service.
Google Inc. announced the music service along with expansions to its game services and tools for coders at its annual software developers’ conference in San Francisco.
Google wants to not only offer access to millions of songs, but also help guide you to music you might like. You can choose one of 22 music genres and see key albums that define the genre along with recommendations from Google’s curators. You can listen to any track right away, or switch to a “radio station” format featuring songs you’ll likely want to hear. You can adjust the playlist as you go.
On the game side, Google is adding leaderboards and the ability to match players in online games to its Android operating system for smartphones and tablet computers.
The new features match those available in Apple’s Game Center for the iPhone and iPad. Google is also making it possible to save game progress online, so players can pick up games where they left off, even on other devices.
Three employees tried to demonstrate on stage how they could all join a racing game, but failed to pull off the demo due to wireless connectivity issues in the conference center.
The Google Play leaderboards will also be available through a browser, said Hugo Barra, vice president of product management of Android.
The developers’ conference provides Google with an opportunity to flex its technological muscle in front of a sold-out audience of engineers and entrepreneurs who develop applications and other features that can make smartphones and tablets more appealing.
The company, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., made a big splash at last year’s conference by staging an elaborate production to highlight the potential of Google Glass — an Internet-connected device and camera that can be worn on a person’s face like a pair of spectacles. Google co-founder Sergey Brin wowed the crowd last year by taking to the stage and then engaging in a live video chat with a group of skydivers who were in a dirigible hovering above the convention. When they jumped, the skydivers’ descent to the rooftop was shown live through the Google Glass camera.
Much of the speculation about this year’s conference, dubbed “Google I/O,” has centered on a possible upgrade to the Nexus 7, a mini-tablet that debuted at last year’s event as an alternative to the similarly sized Kindle Fire made by Amazon.com Inc. and the larger iPad. A few months after the Nexus 7 came out, Apple released the iPad Mini to counter the threat posed by Google’s entrance into the market.
So far, Google hasn’t showed off new hardware at this year’s conference. Instead, it announced that it will be selling a version of Samsung’s new flagship phone, the Galaxy S4, which runs a “clean” version of Android, without the modifications that Samsung applies to its phones.
Google will be selling a Galaxy S4 with 16 gigabytes of internal memory for $649 in the U.S. That’s $20 more than T-Mobile US charges for the stock phone. Google’s version will work on T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s network, with support for the latest and fastest “LTE” data network technology.
AP Technology Writers Peter Svensson and Nick Jesdanun contributed to this report from New York.
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