Google Expands Music Beta to Apple's iOS

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Google (NAS: GOOG) unveiled a new version of its cloud-based Music Beta service optimized for rival Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iOS mobile platform, sidestepping Apple's App Store in favor of an HTML5-based web experience accessible via the iPhone or iPad's Safari browser.

Available at music.google.com, Music Beta for iOS enables users to stream their digital music library from the cloud, leveraging the iOS touchscreen to support swiping between search, shuffle and related functions. The app also leverages existing iOS music controls, with music continuing to play in the background after users exit Safari.

Contacted by TechCrunch, Google declined to specify whether it plans to roll out a native Music Beta app for iOS. "We're considering all options to bring the service to more people, but don't have anything official to share," a Google spokesperson said.

Google first introduced Music Beta during its annual I/O developer conference in May 2011. The service enables consumers to upload and store their digital music collections via the web for streaming playback across Flash-enabled connected devices including Android smartphones and tablets as well as the desktop. Users may store as many as 20,000 songs for free -- the service syncs activity on different devices, meaning that playlists created on the user's smartphone will automatically show up on their computers. For now, the service is invitation-only.

Like online retailer Amazon.com's Cloud Drive initiative introduced in late March, Music Beta by Google arrived without record label licensing agreements, meaning consumers are blocked from sharing songs with friends or purchasing premium downloads from Google. "A couple of major labels were not as collaborative and frankly were demanding a set of business terms that were unreasonable and did not allow us to build a product or a business on a sustainable business," Android director of digital content Jamie Rosenberg said at I/O 2011. "So we're not necessarily relying on the partnerships that have proven difficult."

Both Google and Amazon maintain they do not need licenses to store music for users and play songs on multiple devices because users upload the songs they own, just as they would if they backed up their computers.

In related news, Google launched Magnifier, a new Music Beta discovery site designed to introduce users to new content and artists. In an email sent Thursday to Music Beta subscribers, Google head of music programming Tim Quirk explains Magnifier will offer free music each day -- some selections will spotlight artists deserving wider attention, and others will feature rare tracks by artists already in the user's digital library. Magnifier will also offer live performances and video interviews. Users may add all Magnifier content to their Music Beta library.

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