Tipped by a plethora of rumors beforehand, the move officially enters Google into competition with the likes of Spotify, Rhapsody and Pandora, and positions it ahead of Apple, which has been rumored to be planning a streaming service for months. Yet plenty of big questions remain.
Priced at $9.99 per month, the service allows users a rather huge degree of control over radio functions. Combining Google’s own catalog of “millions” of songs with a user’s own music library, Google Play All Access allows users to peruse genres and albums, create playlists and launch “lean-back” radio from seed songs or artists. Unlike competitors in the space, Google’s platform will allow listeners to browse through automated playlists and alter them on the fly, skipping songs or rearranging the sequencing.
The service will be available in the U.S. immediately, with an international rollout to come. The platform works on phones, tablets and Web browsers. Google will offer a one-month free trial, and users who start that free trial before the end of June get a $2 discount on the subscription price.
The first big hurdle the service faces is its price. While the $10 monthly fee is in line with Rdio or Spotify’s premium tiers, the lack of a free or more moderately priced option could be a sticking point. A central tenet of Spotify’s strategy, for example, involves attracting an audience through its ad-supported free tier, then enticing them to become paying subscribers to access the service ad-free and on mobile devices – so far, Spotify has managed to attract 6 million paying subscribers out of an active user base of 24 million.
Another issue concerns the lack of YouTube integration. Technically, the Google-owned YouTube is already the largest music streaming site in the world, yet the company has never really comprehensively connected the site with its Google Play music platforms, and it went unmentioned during the announcement.
Yet Google’s sheer size always makes it a competitor, and its Android devices have been increasingly dominating the smartphone market. Earlier in the conference, Google’s VP of Android product management Hugo Barra announced that Android activations had passed the 900 million mark, with Google Play racking up 48 billion app installations.