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Summary:

A leaked app update to Google’s Android Music software looks to bring a far better user experience, but there’s a second app associated with it. JumperTest appears to be a beta for an upcoming music streaming service from Google; something Apple currently doesn’t offer.

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Streaming music from a computer or the web to a mobile device isn’t new, but 2011 is setting itself up for musical turf war that could add both Google and Apple to the mix. In May, Google announced plans for music streaming in Android while in 2009, Apple purchased Lala, a music-based community coupled with streaming technology. Apple is also building a large data center in North Carolina, which could be used to store and serve digital media.

Google appears close to providing a streaming solution, if the media player software for Android 3.0 is any indication. Yesterday, an early build of the application was leaked, and it offers not only a vastly improved media playback experience, but also a second test app that looks like the basics needed for media streaming. I played with the beta app, called JumperTest, and see ways to import music and associate the application with either of my two Google accounts. In its current state, the app has a very limited interface, and although I can start a peer service, which I presume would allow for media sharing or streaming, I can’t access it on any other devices.

 

My expectation is that when completed, the JumperTest app will hook into Google Music, a digital storage locker for media streaming that will reportedly cost $25 per year. That service would likely depend on licensing arrangements between Google and the record labels, and it would compete with a number of existing third-party music streaming services, such as MP3Tunes, MOG, Rdio, Rhapsody, and Spotify (not yet available in the U.S.) just to name a few. Related: how to use some of these services to stream music from the cloud.

Apple, which doesn’t yet offer music streaming, may actually be in the best position to do so, however. The company has held the top spot for digital music downloads since passing Walmart  back in 2008, accounting for 28 percent of all music sales, both physical and digital, earlier this year. As such, it wields considerable clout with the record labels and could negotiate favorable terms for media streaming. So why has Apple, and for that matter, Google, stayed out of music streaming until now?

There are probably several reasons that fit in with the long-term strategies of both companies, but I think the most prominent may be that of bandwidth and available data plans for mobile devices. For a positive music experience, consumers will need a stable and reasonably fast wireless broadband connection, barring any song buffer features. I’ve streamed music on a pokey EDGE or 2G connection in the past, and it can be hit-or-miss. Streaming over 3G, however, supports higher-quality playback, less buffering and fewer pauses due to a spotty connection.

This past year saw 3G mobile broadband network upgrades by all of the major carriers in the U.S., and next year will bring wider availability of 4G networks. As consumers adopt more smartphones, they’re going to be connecting to these faster networks, so music streaming experiences should improve to the point where Apple, Google and perhaps even Amazon (GigaOM Pro subscription required) can offer them, allowing consumers to finally stop worrying about how to sync music over to a handset.

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  1. Your list of streaming services has a glaring omission. Pandora.

    1. Thanks Pat. I use Pandora on a fairly regular basis and it is among the leaders in this space, especially since more devices than ever are starting to support it.

  2. android is coming up something new as try to cover up the market as much as apple has

  3. I agree that streaming, particularly on Android is going to be well received. As I was testing a Dell Streak this summer, I would stream Pandora my entire trip to the suburban office with barely a hiccup. Even in the subway on the way to the downtown Chicago office it worked fine. I found that on Android, I prefer streaming, and on the iPhone I prefer playing music from my collection. However, a blended approach would be ideal.

    I would also suggest that for the labels, new products be created. How does one create great experiences for music, that people will pay for in conjunction with streaming? iTunes is a walled garden, albeit currently the most effective for the labels. They will all be gone without profitable product!

    1. “I found that on Android, I prefer streaming, and on the iPhone I prefer playing music from my collection. However, a blended approach would be ideal.”

      That’s a very interesting observation, Nicholas. Any thoughts as to why that is? I’m thinking because the music app is better on iOS than on Android, but curious as to your thoughts. Thanks!

  4. no mention of last.fm?

  5. 13 Mobile Technology Predictions for 2011: Mobile « Tuesday, December 28, 2010

    [...] likely see improved notifications in iOS version 5. Thanks to more robust mobile broadband options, I expect Apple to offer iTunes music streaming in 2011, as well. I don’t forsee any new mobile products from Apple, however, even though I think [...]

  6. As you mentioned current data plans are not favorable for data streaming, so I was wondering Google or Apple could set up streaming stations at public places like Airports etc., where people can stream music over WiFi rather than using their data plan.

  7. Kevin, check out my article on how it all ties together: New Android music app, is this the first toe into the Google Music pool? http://exm.nr/ft8I4i Please let me know your thoughts.

  8. Chris Robert McLellan Sunday, January 30, 2011

    The mufin player is now available as a free music app for Android and streams 250 (1G) tracks to your handset free from the cloud. The touch screen music map is also very cool. http://www.mufin.com/us/#/software/mufinplayermobile

  9. Can Carriers Move the Needle in Mobile Music?: Mobile Technology News « Saturday, February 12, 2011

    [...] user base, but the company has spent oodles of money just to approach profitability and — as Kevin noted in December — the field could get a lot more crowded this year as Apple and Google pursue streaming-music [...]

  10. How E-Books Are Coming Full Circle Thanks to Tablets: Mobile Technology News « Friday, March 25, 2011

    [...] best suited for a digital music locker in the cloud, although I’ve seen firsthand that Google is already working on a similar offering. If that’s the case, an Amazon Android tablet would be perfectly suited for such a product. [...]

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