Google Announces Web Music Service, Movie Rentals and More

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Google’s 2011 developer conference kicked off on Tuesday, May 10. Did you see the live blog? It’s O.K. if you didn’t. I’m not one of those How dare you not read everything I write! kind of writers. I just sort of fell into this whole blogging thing a few years back after my career in modern dance was cut short due to my lack of talent, drive, ambition, coordination and so forth.

So here’s what we’ve got.

Android Is Converging

Android on a tablet? Android on a phone? Soon it won’t matter — the devices will all run the same Android operating system known as Ice Cream Sandwich. “Our goal with Ice Cream Sandwich is to deliver one operating system that works everywhere, regardless of device,” says Google. That’s a good thing, as Android has a problem with “fragmentation” nowadays. More on that later.

Android Movies

You’ll be able to rent a movie from the Android Market and stream it to any connected Android phone or tablet. Movie rentals will start at $1.99 and be viewable for 30 days (or 24 hours once you hit the play button). If you own a Motorola Xoom tablet, you can get movies on May 10. Phones running Android 2.2 and up will get access to movies in a couple of weeks. You can also rent movies directly from the Android Market on the Web starting on May 10.

Google Music Beta

Google’s long-rumored online music service is finally here. Well, almost here. It’s being rolled out in a private beta for U.S. residents (click here to sign up). You can upload as many as 20,000 songs to the service and then play them back from any connected Android device.

The service will automatically download frequently played tracks to your phone or tablet too. There’s also a feature called Instant Mix that creates intelligent playlists, much like Apple’s Genius feature on iTunes.

You can install a program called Music Manager on your Windows or Mac, which will automatically keep any tracks added to iTunes or Windows Media Player synchronized with Google Music, so it should be a fairly hands-off process. Google Music will be free while in beta — no word on future pricing.

Check out the video at the top of this post for more.

Devices to Be Upgraded to New Versions of Android Faster

Part of the problem with the current state of Android is that a new version with new features will get released, but your phone won’t get the new version for months. Google’s now working on making sure that devices in the future will be quickly upgraded to the latest version.

The company is working with big-name wireless players “to adopt guidelines for how quickly devices are updated after a new platform release, and also for how long they will continue to be updated.” Here’s more:

“The founding partners are Verizon, HTC, Samsung, Sprint, Sony Ericsson, LG, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Motorola and AT&T, and we welcome others to join us. To start, we’re jointly announcing that new devices from participating partners will receive the latest Android platform upgrades for 18 months after the device is first released, as long as the hardware allows.”

That’s good news for Android users. Seeing that most of us are stuck with the same phone for at least two years, these guidelines would ensure that we’d get the latest Android software in a timely manner. People have accused the carriers of dragging their feet on Android updates in order to get people to buy new phones instead, so this will hopefully put a stop to that.

Android Open Accessory and Android@Home Initiatives

Finally, some very cool technology was demonstrated that tied Android devices to other items we use every day.

The Android Open Accessory initiative provides a way for anyone to build something that can interface with an Android phone or tablet.


Google demonstrated an exercise bike that could communicate with an Android phone. You’d have different workout apps on the phone that would communicate with the bike to relay calorie counts, workout regimens and stuff like that.

And the Android@Home initiative “allows Android apps to discover, connect and communicate with appliances and devices in your home.” Google has partnered with a manufacturer of LED lightbulbs that have the technology built right into them, so we may see those hit the market by the end of the year. You’d be able to control these lightbulbs from your phone or tablet.

Google is also extending Android@Home into a music-based offering called Project Tungsten. You’d have a little Web-connected box that would plug into sets of speakers around your house, and you could stream music to different rooms from your phone or tablet — using Google Music, of course.


Google even showed a cool proof-of-concept demo where you’d tap an RFID-enabled CD case against a Project Tungsten box and all the tracks on that CD would become available in your Google Music library for instant streaming. Google would have to get the music industry on board with this — which could take forever — but I’m guessing the industry wouldn’t mind trying to sell a few more CDs, so it just might act on the idea.

More on Live Blog: Google’s 2011 Developer Conference Keynote

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