Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 3 November 2012

iTunes Under Threat From Google

It's been a heck of a few weeks in the tablet world, what with the launch of the iPad mini, Google upping the spec of the Nexus 7 to 32 Gb while dropping the price while announcing the launch of the Nexus 4 and 10, while in the UK we've seen Barnes & Noble announce that their Nook HD tablets are coming in November too.  Their e-ink devices are here already and on display at an Asda near you.

But it's not all about hardware, right?  Apple wouldn't be anywhere now if it hadn't been for an inspired piece of vision by Steve Jobs and his team with the launch of the iTunes product which complemented the classy looking MP3 players Apple were touting a few years back.  Without iTunes, the iPod would have been just another MP3 player, without the iPod, iTunes would have been a solution looking for a problem.  The other, major, piece of vision at Apple was to license the dock side of their connector to anyone who wanted to make an Apple compatible device, meaning that the market could fill up with cheap to expensive, sassy to ugly, docks without allowing anyone other than Apple to make a device capable of docking with them.

Anyway, history will show that Apple did it right, playing the perfect long game that has one major limitation - it is built around Apple.  Sure, I can load iTunes onto my PC and use it to play MP3s as my default player, but I'm fairly certain that will be a stretch on my Android devices.  Picky of me, maybe, but there are a squillion or so Android devices in use worldwide and about to swell with Google's launch of the Nexus 4, 7 & 10 et al.

About a year ago Google launched Google Music in the US and it has been fairly well received despite Google's insistence on messing with the name on a few occasions. Well, they are launching it over here in the UK soon, on November 13th.  In addition to the usual music buying opportunities they are adding a very useful cloud based experience that could be the model for the future.  You can upload songs in your Google library for free and then they are stored in the cloud and are available for any of your Android devices you are linked to. Not just a few songs, mind, but 20,000 of them.  Here's where it gets better.

If you try to upload songs that Google recognise, and given that they've just signed up with Warner this week to complete their tie in with the majority of music distributors that may be a given, then they'll just add those tracks to your cloud.  In software terms they simply associate the file with your Google cloud space with the metadata of your songs, so they don't have to squander terabytes of storage on multiple copies of the same file, they just have to allocate a minimal amount of data to show that you are entitled to stream a copy from their master archive.  Neat, eh?  And of course, the metadata should be all correct - no more mistyped titles annoying the hell out of everyone.

And if you have an iTunes account on your computer when you connect to Google Music, then the content of that account is also game for allocating to your Google cloud space.  So Apple have done the spade work and Android reaps the benefits.

Rock and roll on November 13th!


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