Google announces streaming music service to rival Pandora, Spotify

San Jose Mercury NewsMay 15, 2013 

— Google on Wednesday stepped up its efforts to win over online music fans by launching a new streaming music service that competes with popular services such as Pandora and Spotify.

Calling it “radio without rules,” Google said its new “All Access” service will let users choose from millions of tracks and provide recommended songs and playlists for $9.99 a month.

With the announcement on the opening day of Google’s annual I/O software conference, the giant Mountain View, Calif., company moved ahead of rivals Apple and Amazon.com, which are reported to be working on similar subscription music services. All three companies already sell digital music online, but they have not offered subscription streaming services.

The streaming-music market is growing, according to the research firm eMarketer, which reported that more than 96 million people are expected to stream music from digital devices weekly in the United States this year.

Google also announced some new features for several of its other products, as well as a new stand-alone messaging service to compete with upstarts such as WhatsApp and Line. Perhaps the most dramatic is an expansion of the voice-activated Google Now service, which now provides spoken answers to questions on both mobile gadgets and desktop computers using the Chrome operating system.

The company’s struggling social networking service, Google Plus, is also getting a facelift with a display that shows posts in multiple columns and provides more information on topics that users post about. It also will have new tools that automatically sort photos and even combine them into new images, after filtering out blurred images, bad lighting and other problems.

The lengthy keynote presentation otherwise focused on a variety of new programming tools for software developers who want to build games, apps and other services on Google’s Android and Chrome operating systems. Android is the world’s most widely used smartphone operating system, while Chrome has become the world’s most popular browser, Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai told an audience of 6,000 programmers, analysts and tech journalists.

In contrast with previous years, Google did not announce any new laptops or phones.

I/O, which runs Wednesday through Friday, is a chance for developers and analysts who don’t work at Google to talk shop and trade coding tips with the company’s own software experts. But it’s also become known as the event where Google showcases its latest big ideas.

That was the case last year, when Google co-founder Sergey Brin showed off the new Glass device by hosting a video chat with several sky divers who wore the Internet-connected gadget as they parachuted to the roof of the Moscone West convention building in downtown San Francisco.

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