Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Google ditches gimmicks, launches own music streaming service

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Google unveils 'All Access' music

Google promotes their new $10-a-month music streaming service that blends songs users have already uploaded to their online libraries with millions of other tracks.

SAN FRANCISO: Google has steered the focus at this year's annual developers' conference I/O away from gimmicks and gadgets and back to its core online presence and offerings.

It rolled out and previewed a raft of new upgrades to existing services, most notably in mapping, search, education, photo editing, gaming and music.

The emphasis was on offering personalised experiences and integrating social features from the Google+ platform across all its offerings.

Larry Page: Google's CEO speaks during the opening keynote.

Larry Page: Google's CEO speaks during the opening keynote. Photo: Getty Images

Surprisingly, not one of presenters who fronted the three-and-a-half hour keynote address was wearing Google Glass, the experimental wearable computer with heads-up display which featured so prominently last year.


The no-show indicates that a mass consumer release is not imminent, even though scores of attendees who signed up to road test them last year are here parading their new hi-tech frames.

The event also marked the first appearance of Google chief executive Larry Page, since he disappeared from public view last year with what was then an undiagnosed medical condition.

All Access: Google announced their own music streaming service.

All Access: Google announced their own music streaming service. Photo: AFP

Page appeared on stage at the end of today's event, speaking for 15 minutes before taking questions from the floor for another 30 minutes.

The Google CEO revealed this week that he had been suffering from vocal chord paralysis. After losing his first vocal chord to the condition 14 years ago, he found himself in the rare position of losing the other chord to the same problem last year.

The result is that he is much more softly spoken than before and has problems breathing which affects his ability to exercise. But not, he stressed, his ability to continue as CEO.

Where are they? Google Glass.

Where are they? Google Glass. Photo: Getty Images

The key announcement from Google at Wednesday's event was that it would begin offering a streaming music service, a move that pits it against services such as Spotify, Pandora, Rdio and the rumoured soon-to-be-announced Apple subscription music service.

The service, called All Access will roll out shortly in the US at a cost of $US9.99 a month, or $US7.99 a month for those who sign up before June 30. No details were given about any international releases.

Google also said it will beef up its education offerings with a range of new services available on its Android tablet platform. The move will find Google coming up against its sparring partner Apple, which has already staked a firm foothold in that sector with its iPad.

One of Google's big success stories has been search and maps, and new features for these two products were also demonstrated.

Google's vice-president of mobile, Johanna Wright, gave an impressive demonstration using the company's "conversational voice search" mode within the Google Chrome browser. The spoken command "OK, Google" is used to wake the voice search mode.

Google Maps has had a major makeover, with a host of new features baked in. While the new look and feel won't be rolled out until later this year, Google offered users a preview here.
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