Google Inc unveiled a music service on Wednesday that allows users to listen to unlimited songs for $9.99 a month, challenging smaller companies like Pandora and Spotify in the market for streaming music.
With its new service, announced at its annual developers’ conference in San Francisco, Google has adopted the streaming music business model ahead of rival Apple Inc, which pioneered online music purchases with iTunes.
Google’s “All Access” service lets users customize song selections from 22 genres, ranging from Jazz to Indie music, stream individual playlists, or listen to a curated, radio-like stream that can be tweaked. It will be launched for U.S. users first, before being rolled out to several other countries.
At the conference, Google also unveiled improvements to other services, including new mapping features and a voice-activated search. The focus was on giving more options to users of mobile devices using its Android operating system.
Google’s shares jumped more than 3 percent while Pandora Media Inc shares were down more than 1 percent on Wednesday afternoon.
The entry of the world’s largest Internet company amps up the competition in the nascent market for subscription-based, streaming music. Amazon.com Inc and Apple are among the Silicon Valley powerhouses sounding out top recording industry executives, according to sources with knowledge of talks.
Pandora is spending freely and racking up losses to expand globally. Even social media stalwarts Facebook and Twitter are jumping onto the streaming-music bandwagon.
All these companies see a viable music streaming and subscription service as crucial to growing their presence in an exploding mobile environment. For Google and Apple, it is critical in ensuring users remain loyal to their mobile products.
Music has been integral to the mobile experience since the early days of iTunes, which upended the old models with its 99-cent-per-song buying approach.
Now, as smartphones and tablets supplant PCs and virtual storage replaces songs on devices, mobile players from handset makers to social networks realize they must stake out a place or risk ceding control of one of the largest components of mobile device usage.
At $9.99 a month, Google’s service is costlier than the $3.99 required for Pandora, but on par with Spotify.
Google executives said their new service takes the work out of managing massive music libraries, noting the streaming model can be endlessly customized.
Eagle-eyed Twitlio developer Jonathan Gottfried noticed the apparent confirmation of a Twitter app for Google Glass, having seen someone tweeting a picture from the source “Twitter for Glass” .
Is @mogroothmuddler beta testing an official Twitter for Glass app? Certainly looks like it. twitter.com/jonmarkgo/stat…
— Jonathan Gottfried (@jonmarkgo) April 29, 2013
According to Allthingsd, this leak is likely to be the real deal. Why? Because Twitter restricts the creation of apps with “Twitter” in the name, so it’s unlikely that someon has knocked up a fake application with the word “Twitter” in its name.
What’s more, the tweet in question came from @MogroothMuddler, an account that has since been deleted. However, this Twitter account has been traced back to a man called Shiv Ramamurthi, who works as an engineering manager at Twitter. If anyone was going to get their mitts on an early release of Twitter’s Google Glass application, it would be a Twitter engineer.
It’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing the release of Twitter for Google Glass any time soon, given that Google recently said that it is unlikely to release its spectacles until 2014.
However the leak does suggest that other software developers like Facebook and Instagram might be working on apps for Google’s eyewear.
Twitter said that it was unable to comment.
Six years after the sale of the first iPhone and 14 years after the first BlackBerry email pager was debuted, smartphone shipments have outnumbered sales of other types of mobile phones, according to IDC.
IDC said 216.2 million smartphones were shipped globally in the first quarter of 2013. The smartphone total accounted for 51.6% of all mobile phones shipped.
Shipments of other mobile phones, which IDC calls feature phones, totaled 202.4 million in the quarter. Total shipments of all mobile phones was 418.6 million, IDC said.
“The balance of smartphone power has shifted,” said IDC analyst Kevin Restivo in a statement. “Phone users want computers in their pockets. The days when phones were used primarily to make phone calls and send text messages are quickly fading away.”
IDC also noted the emergence of China-based companies, including Huawei, ZTE, Coolpad and Lenovo, among the leading smartphone vendors, .
Those newcomers and others have displaced longtime mobile phone leaders Nokia from Finland, BlackBerry from Canada, and HTC from Taiwan, in the list of top five smartphone makers, IDC said.
BlackBerry was producing what was essentially a smartphone before Apple introduced the iPhone in June 2007.
The first BlackBerry device was an email pager, introduced in 1999. Those devices were subsequently combined with voice calling.
Nokia has long been a top producer of mobile phones, though it slipped off the top five list for the first quarter.
A year ago, it was common to see previous market leaders Nokia, BlackBerry and HTC among the top five, said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC.
IDC ranked the top five smartphone vendors in the first quarter as: Samsung (70.7%); Apple (37.4); LG (10.3%); Huawei (9.9%); ZTE (9.1%). The rest made up 36.4% of the market.
IDC ranked the top five vendors of feature phones and smartphones combined as: Samsung (27.5%); Nokia (14.8%); Apple (8.9%); LG (3.7%) and ZTE (3.2%). All others combined to hold 41.9% of the market.
The tablet became available first in the U.S. through its website. The tablet is also available for order on the company’s U.K. website, and is scheduled to ship on May 1.
The Slate 7 weighs 370 grams, offers five hours of battery life on video playback, and is the company’s first tablet with Android OS. The 7-inch screen displays images at a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. The tablet has 8GB of internal storage, but has a micro-SD slot for expandable storage. It has a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor running at 1.4GHz and key features include a 3-megapixel back camera, a VGA front camera and Wi-Fi. Other features include Beats audio, which is also found on HP’s laptops and desktops.
HP hopes buyers will choose its aggressively priced tablet over other Android tablets like Google’s Nexus, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD, which are priced at $199. But HP’s well-entrenched rivals offer a suite of services and content including music and movies along with the tablets. HP is relying on Google for delivery of music, movies and TV shows to its tablets, but has said it could offer its own cloud service when the time is right.
Slate 7 is HP’s first consumer tablet offering since the 2011 debacle of the webOS-based TouchPad tablet, which was nixed after HP that year announced it would either sell or spin off its Personal Systems Group, which dealt in PCs and tablets. In a fire sale, HP sold off its remaining TouchPad tablets at prices starting at $99 and people lined up outside stores to buy the product. HP ultimately retained the PS, and sold off the webOS assets to LG in February this year.
Analysts have said that the tablet’s price, specifications and HP brand name are attractive.
HP has said it is experimenting with different screen sizes, and has said more consumer tablets would be released this year. HP also offers business tablets like the ElitePad 900 based on Windows 8. The $649 Envy X2 with Windows 8 is a hybrid that can be used as a tablet or a laptop.
Citing three unnamed sources, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Amazon is planning to launch the set-top box this fall. However, the report doesn’t say how much the box will cost or how it will stand out from other devices like Apple TV and Roku.
It’s obvious why Amazon would want to launch its own TV box. Existing set-top boxes and game consoles don’t put Amazon’s services front and center, or they don’t offer Amazon video at all.
With its own product, Amazon can steer people toward its Prime Instant Video service and its a la carte video offerings.
Bloomberg claims that Amazon will likely allow competing video services such as Netflix and Hulu on the device, just as it does on the Kindle Fire. Still, Amazon’s own services will get more prominent billing.
But does the world need another cheap set-top box? That depends on what Amazon can bring to the table.
Just to speculate a bit, the company could offer tablet-to-TV streaming similar to Apple’s AirPlay–a feature not found on most competing devices–and it could extend its FreeTime service A to the television to highlight kid-friendly content.
Perhaps Amazon could also dabble in gaming by offering a controller that works with games from its own Appstore for Android.
Most of all, Amazon could undercut the competition on price, just as it did with the Kindle Fire. If the company can offer a sub-$50 set-top box with solid features and a simple interface, it could be a big hit.
Samsung is making an aggressive sales play in the U.S. market by moving into thousands of third-party retail outlets where dedicated staff will sell and provide advice on the company’s smartphones,tablets and entertainment products.
Samsung has established “pop-up” stores in the past and had a full-scale outlet in New York that was ultimately shut down. A part of the new expansion plan includes retailer Best Buy, which on Monday announced that it would establish a special zone in its 1,400 U.S. retail stores to sell Samsung products.
The company already has authorized resellers, and the Best Buy partnership is an effort to give users a hands-on experience with its products, said Tim Baxter, CEO of Samsung Electronics America, during an event in New York on Wednesday to announce the Samsung and Best Buy partnership.
Providing a hands-on experience is a “vital” part of getting users to buy Samsung products, Baxter said.
Also, mobile computing is headed in a direction where tablets, smartphones and other devices such as TVs are able to easily interact with each other. A larger in-store presence will educate users on how these products work together, Baxter said.
Baxter declined to say if Samsung would open its own stores in key locations, but said that the company would partner with more retailers. Samsung spends $8 billion to $9 billion on product research every year, and a larger retail presence will also help understand product trends in the U.S., Baxter said.
The U.S. is a key market for Samsung, and the company believes it can grab a larger share in smartphones, tablets and PCs through a larger in-store presence. Samsung’s smartphone rival Apple already has a large retail presence where customers can buy products and get support.
The service, dubbed #music, uses tweets to cull the hottest new songs, groups and singers. It also focuses on musical artists and their music-related Twitter activity, letting users in on what groups or singers they follow and tweet about.
Twitter #Music can be accessed on the Web or used as an app for the iOS platform that is available for download from Apple’s App Store. Right now, the Web service is only available in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Twitter noted that it is looking to make the service available to more countries and to eventually make the app available on the Android platform.
“Twitter and music go great together,” wrote Stephen Philips, the founder of We Are Hunted, in a blog post. “Many of the most-followed accounts on Twitter are musicians, and half of all users follow at least one musician. This is why artists turn to Twitter first to connect with their fans — and why we wanted to find a way to surface songs people are tweeting about.”
This is a great move for Twitter, according to Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research.
“This adds more value to the Twitter brand,” said Kerravala. “This is important to the future of Twitter as the company tries to expand into other content areas. It’s all about retaining eyeballs and that may be the most important metric for social companies.”
Amazon.com Inc has managed to snag more than a fifth of the market for digital music downloads, helped by the launch of its own tablet computers and aggressive pricing, according to an industry study released on Tuesday.
AmazonMP3, the online retailer’s digital music business, had 22 percent of the market for music downloads in the United States in last year’s fourth quarter, research firm the NPD Group said in its Annual Music Study.
That compares with 15 percent in 2011, 13 percent in 2010, 10 percent in 2009 and 7 percent in 2008, NPD data showed.
Apple Inc’s iTunes store, which turns 10 years old on April 28, was still dominant with 63 percent of the market in the fourth quarter of 2012. But that was down from 68 percent in 2011 and 69 percent in 2009, according to NPD.
“Amazon’s entry into tablets probably helped,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president, industry analysis, at NPD Group.
Amazon launched its own tablet, the Kindle Fire, in 2011, and last year the company rolled out larger versions of the device to compete more with Apple’s iPad.
Amazon is using the Kindle Fire to try to sell more digital goods, such as music, video, apps and games, where iTunes leads.
Amazon, known for low prices, has also taken that approach in music downloads, running frequent price promotions to spur more sales. In 2011, the company offered Lady Gaga’s album “Born This Way” for 99 cents in MP3 format. Demand was so strong that Amazon’s computer servers stalled, forcing the company to run the promotion again a few days later.
Amazon has also benefited from a large base of consumers who buy physical CDs from the retailer. As those shoppers switch to digital music, the company has managed to keep many of them as customers, Crupnick explained.
Amazon sells digital music without Digital Rights Management, or DRM, a technology that limits how people can consume such content. The company’s DRM-free approach boosted demand because it let consumers listen to music on any devices, including Apple devices like iPods and iPhones, Crupnick said.
Samsung has announced that it is producing 128Gbit 3-bit multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash chips for solid-state disk (SSD) drives.
Samsung has been pushing its NAND flash production to feed the growing capacity and performance demands of smartphones, tablets and SSDs. Now the firm has announced that it has put 128Gbit 3-bit MLC NAND chips into production using its 10nm class process node.
While Samsung wouldn’t say exactly what process node it is using – 10nm class refers to anything between 10nm and 20nm – the firm did say bandwidth is 400Mbit/s on the toggle DDR2 interface. Samsung also said that the chips will end up in 128GB memory cards and strongly hinted that the chips will also end up in its range of high-end SSDs.
Younghyun Jun, executive VP or memory sales and marketing at Samsung Semiconductor said, “By introducing next-generation memory storage products like the 129Gb NAND chip, Samsung is extremely well situated to meet growing global customer needs.
“The new chip is a critical product in the evolution of NAND flash, one whose timely production will enable us to increase our competitiveness in the high density memory storage market.”
Samsung started mass production of 64Gbit MLC NAND flash back in November and the doubling of density in five months is an impressive feat, along with its ability to produce chips using a 10nm class process node.
Samsung didn’t say when products based on the 128Gbit chips will appear but they will be unlikely to see the light of day for a few months.
A new webpage, music.twitter.com, went live. With the Twitter bird logo and the hashtag #music, pressing the “Sign In” button takes you to a page that says it’s the Web version of the Trending Music App.
The page also asks if you will authorize Trending Music Web to use your account. However, the page, which is still under construction, doesn’t go anywhere.
And early Friday, Twitter announced that it has acquired We Are Hunted, a four-year-old music aggregation website that scans music blogs and social networks to continuously create a list of the 99 most popular new songs online.
We Are Hunted said Friday that it is shutting down but will continue to create services as part of the Twitter team. Executives behind the service would not say what they’re working on for Twitter.
“We wish we could say but we’re not yet ready to talk about it. You’ll hear more from us when we are,” the site said.
And on Thursday, Ryan Seacrest, host of American Idol and his own radio show, tweeted that he has been trying out Twitter’s new music app.
“Playing with @twitter’s new music app (yes it’s real!)…,” he tweeted. “Lovin the app…shows what artists are trending, also has up and coming artists… spinning u now @frankturner.”
We Are Hunted replied to Seacrest’s tweet, saying, “@RyanSeacrest so glad you’re enjoying it! Cc @twittermusic.”
Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said Twitter could be making a big mistake with a music service or app.
“I think this is a horrible idea as this will undoubtedly start to clog up Twitter, adding superfluous music playing instances very few users care about,” he added. “Sure, a few demographics care what someone is listening to, but most don’t and consider it social garbage. This could very well turn other users off. Twitter needs to be very careful with this.”
However, Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner Inc., said a Twitter music service could be a nice change from other streaming apps such as Pandora, Rhapsody and Spotify.
“While there are lots of services, it would be great to see Twitter get into the music business if they can provide some added value, such as to marry their real-time capabilities with music, have the capability for users to easily find new music from their Twitter followers, or to purchase songs directly from a twitter music app and then immediately share that with their own followers,” he said.
“Twitter content tends to be more public than say that on Facebook or other social networking services, so having that music-sharing capability with no issues around privacy could help artists reach more people,” Blau said. He added that it’s smart for Twitter to expand its business and revenue lines.
The company said that after a strategic business review, it was decided that BlackBerry will no longer develop or provide support for BBM Music. Customers subscribed to BBM Music will have access to the Rdio music service for 30 days for free, it said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
BlackBerry, then named Research In Motion, announced in August 2011 the BBM Music app, positioning it as a social music service around BlackBerry Messenger. Starting with a “closed beta trial,” the service was to be commercially available later in the year for a monthly subscription of about $5 in 18 countries.
Music on the service can be cached to smartphones for offline listening, allowing users to access songs even when they don’t have wireless coverage, and users can swap up to 25 songs each month from their personal profile of 50 songs, besides being allowed to share playlists or single songs with friends who are part of the program.
Rdio in San Francisco has supported various BlackBerry devices. A digital music service launched in 2010, it is available in more than 12 countries around the world, and allows users to build a digital collection that is available on the web, in-home or in-car, on an iPad or smartphone, and even offline, according to its website.
The discontinuation of BBM Music may have to do with BlackBerry’s not wanting to compete with the large number of third-party music service providers on its platform, to focus instead on its core business.
“We have re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented BlackBerry to create a new unique mobile computing platform that enables third-parties to bring very rich music and multimedia apps and services to customers,” the company said. Its BlackBerry World storefront for its BlackBerry 10 offers one of the most robust music catalogs in mobile, it added.
That might sound precisely like Facebook, but hundreds of millions of tech-savvy young people have instead turned to a wave of smartphone-based messaging apps that are now sweeping across North America, Asia and Europe.
The hot apps include Kik and Whatsapp, both products of North American startups, as well as Kakao Inc’s KakaoTalk, NHN Corp’s LINE and Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat, which have blossomed in Asian markets.
Combining elements of text messaging and social networking, the apps provide a quick-fire way for smartphone users to trade everything from brief texts to flirtatious pictures to YouTube clips — bypassing both the SMS plans offered by wireless carriers and established social networks originally designed as websites.
Facebook Inc, with 1 billion users, remains by far the world’s most popular website, and its stepped-up focus on mobile has made it the most-used smartphone app as well. Still, across Silicon Valley, investors and industry insiders say there is a possibility that the messaging apps could threaten Facebook’s dominance over the next few years. The larger ones are even starting to emerge as full-blown “platforms” that can support third-party applications such as games.
To be sure, many of those who are using the new messaging apps remain on Facebook, indicating there is little immediate sign of the giant social media company losing its lock on the market. And at a press event this week, the company will unveil news relating to Android, the world’s most popular smartphone operating system, which could include a new version of Android with deeper integration of Facebook messaging tools – or possibly even a Facebook-branded phone.
But the firms that can take over the messaging world should be able to make some big inroads, investors say.
On demand music service Spotify said it is kicking off its first advertising campaign, focusing on U.S. television to hook additional listeners.
Spotify is spending more than $10 million on commercials that will debut during the new season of “The Voice,” a talent show for singers on NBC.
The commercials, created by the advertising agency Droga5, include a concert-goer crowd surfing in an endless sea of people and a guy dancing at a party.
When Spotify was founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, the music service depended heavily on its integration with Facebook. Users needed a Facebook account to access Spotify though that is no longer the case.
With more 20 million active users – including 5 million subscribers who pay to listen the service ad-free and on different mobile devices – Spotify is seeking to gain share as competition from other streaming music services like intensifies. Pandora has about almost 68 million active listeners.
Meanwhile on Monday, Business Insider reported that Spotify is looking to expand to a video on-demand service similar to that of Netflix’s, citing two unnamed sources.
Spotify CEO Ek said in an interview with CNET that it is something it will not be doing anytime soon. “I won’t rule it out because we’re a company that looks at what we’re doing incredibly long term. But right now, we’re all focused on music.”
Google said in August last year that it was adding the number of valid copyright removal notices received for a website as one of more than 200 signals the company uses in its rankings.
“Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results,” Google said in the blog post. The ranking change would help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily, it added.
Six months later, the RIAA has found no evidence that Google’s policy had a “demonstrable impact on demoting sites with large amounts of piracy,” it said in a statement on Thursday, while releasing a ”report card” on Google’s demotion policy.
“The sites we analyzed, all of which were serial infringers per Google’s Copyright Transparency Report, were not demoted in any significant way in the search results and still managed to appear on page 1 of the search results over 98% of the time in the searches conducted,” RIAA said in the report.
The websites also figured consistently in three to five of the top 10 search results, which is of concern as studies have shown that about 94 percent of users do not go beyond the first page of results, RIAA said.
Reputed and authorized download sites, such as iTunes, Amazon.com and eMusic, only appeared in the top 10 results for a little more than half of the searches, according to the study. For 88% of searches for MP3 files and downloads of popular tracks, Google’s auto-complete feature suggested appending to the searches certain terms which are associated with sites for which it has received multiple notices of infringement, thus leading to illegal content, according to the study.
Google did not immediately comment.
Amazon launched Amazon AutoRip, which gives customers free digital versions of music CDs they purchase from the world’s largest Internet retailer.
The digital music files are automatically stored in customer libraries in remote datacenters run by Amazon, where they are available to play or download immediately through the company’s Cloud Player service, the company said.
Amazon customers who have bought AutoRip-eligible CDs at any time since the company started selling discs in 1998 will also get digital versions of that music stored in their Cloud Player libraries for free, the company added.
Amazon’s MP3 digital music business has been around since 2007, but its market share is less than 15 percent, according to The NPD Group. Apple Inc’s iTunes store is the clear leader, with over 50 percent of the market.
The move sparked speculation that Amazon may be able to do the same for books, making Kindle ebook copies of physical titles.
“It would even be profitable for Amazon.com to pay publishers a subsidy to transition all the books purchased on Amazon.com to Kindle books,” said Scott Devitt, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. “Having a digital library that is accessible only on the Kindle platform essentially locks a customer into the Kindle ecosystem forever.
“If executed, it would possibly be the largest coup in company history,” he added.