Google has gone all-in with digital media at I/O 2011, announcing two major new services in its introductory keynote: Google Music Beta and Android Market Movies. Both of these services use the cloud to stream media to your computer or phone; they just go about it in different ways.
Google Music Beta Move over, Amazon Cloud Player. Google’s new cloud music service does almost exactly the same thing: lets you upload your music from your computer to its cloud, and then play it back from any Web browser or 2.2+ Android device. Music Beta is launching alongside an improved Music app for Android, which is available now, but if you’d like access to the cloud features you’ll have to sign up for an invite. We’ve signed up for an invite, but have no idea how exclusive it is going to be given the¬†impending¬†wave of sign-ups. Conference attendees and XOOM owners are reported to be first in line.
Google Music Beta is free for now (emphasis on “for now”), with a storage limit of 20,000 songs — enough for all but the largest music collectors. According to the keynote, all you’ll have to do is point a Google Music Windows or Mac app at your iTunes or Windows Media Player library, and all of your music will begin syncing to the cloud including playcounts, ratings, and playlists. Once it’s synced to the cloud, you’ll be able to access all that music instantly on any Android device you’re logged in to. Pretty awesome, even if Google seems to have cut some corners here and not gotten any official licenses from the labels.
Movies on Android Market
Starting today, you’ll be able to rent movies from the Android Market in a Web browser or directly on your phone or tablet. The feature is live now; simply go to the Android Market homepage and click on the “Movies” tab. These are only movie rentals for now, with conditions that are similar to many other rental sources like iTunes or Amazon VOD. Once you rent the movie you have 30 days to watch it, and once you start watching you have 24 hours to finish.
Movies on Android Market will stream to your device while you watch them, or you can save the entire movie to your device if you’d like to watch without an Internet connection — like while traveling on a plane. You can even stream rented movies in any PC Web browser simply by going to the Android Market Web site. Prices vary from $1.99 for archive titles to $3.99 for new releases.
With these announcements, it seems Google has jumped ahead of the pack in the music game, beating Apple to something (streaming) that is widely speculated will be added to iTunes soon. The Movies announcement is more of a catch-up act, but a very important one. If Android wants to remain a leading smartphone platform, its media features need to get closer to what Apple is offering. With Music Beta and Movies, Google is taking a huge step in the right direction.