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Why Google's new music service might actually work

Why Google's new music service might actually work
Jim Castel CNN
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 7:57pm

There are so many music subscription services right now that it's hard to notice, let alone care about even more competitors that pop up. But the new Google Play Music All Access, which features unlimited streaming, is built to take on Spotify for real.

What's its secret? Google has Android, the world's largest mobile platform, to help champion its cause.

On a fundamental level, Google Play Music All Access isn't doing anything that Spotify and Rdio aren't doing. For $10 a month, you can log on, search for any track your heart desires, and it then streams from Google's servers. If you want to listen offline, you can cache it to your device.

But Google is combining some of the best qualities exclusive to each service. Like Rdio, its mobile and web-based user interfaces are clean and seemingly intuitive. And it's the only service other than Spotify that really lets you merge your personal music library with the streaming catalog. And when you choose to launch its Pandora-esque radio feature, you can re-aarange the automatically generated playlist.

But none of these are as important as the fact that Google has hundreds of millions of Android users who are already familiar with and invested in many of Google's other services. If Google can build some of the functionality of the music service into its other apps (i.e. the new Google Hangouts chat app), that could go a long way to attracting a critical mass of paid subscribers.

Of course, there's still a lot we don't know about the music app quite yet. It's possible that the beauty of it is only skin deep. It could turn out to be difficult to use, or force you to upload your personal music files to the cloud and not just a mobile device.

But even if everything is great, it's also possible people will want to stick with whatever service they already use, since they've carefully constructed their collections, playlists and preferences there. Ditching Spotify, Rdio or Pandora would be to abandon all that time spent tinkering.

But to help entice some of those customers, Google is making a shrewd offer: sign up before June 30, and you only have to pay $8 a month, compared to the $10 a month that is typical for many other music services.

So can Google really become a threat to the subscription music juggernaut that is Spotify? Google is definitely putting all the pieces in place. Now all it needs is a better name than Google Play Music All Access.

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