So Amazon and Google have already launched their cloud music services, leaving Apple as the last major player without a cloud offering. However, according to multiple sources, when Apple launches their service, they may have all four of the major label groups on board. Cnet reports that they’ve already signed deals with Warner Music Group and EMI, and Bloomberg reported last night that they’ve come to terms with Sony, leaving Universal Music Group as the only holdout, even though it’s said they’re close to finalizing a deal. And there’s also a finish line in sight – the deal with Universal could be wrapped up by as early as next week, which would allow Apple to make an announcement on June 6 at their Worldwide Developer’s Conference.
So what will having deals with all the majors do? Well, for one, you won’t have to upload your music to the cloud like you do with Amazon and Google – it’s all there and will recognize what you own from a scan of your hard drive, playing the original master recording almost instantly. As Billboard.biz notes, as the #1 music retailer in the world, Apple could broker licensing deals with the majors more quickly than the other two. The Billboard article claims right in its headline that Apple will dominate the other two, regardless of whether they launched first with the labels behind them or not.
While I haven’t had a chance to use Amazon’s service yet, I’ve been playing around with Google’s for the last week. The initial loading of music took forever. While it’s launching with the opportunity to store up to 20,000 songs, the upload of my relatively sparse (8800 songs) iTunes library took several days to do. Once uploaded, it’s great to be able to listen to your home library at work, though, and via your smartphone (while it works best and looks great on Android devices, obviously, it also works on the web for iPhones/iPads, albeit at a slower load time). It also recognized my iTunes playlists, which is pretty convenient.
There are a few hiccups, though. Obviously without the label deals in place, you’re unable to purchase music. And on launch, free songs are randomly included in your library. Thankfully, some of the 80 or so songs are metal, with selections from High on Fire, Suicidal Tendencies, C.O.C. and Warrant (!) popping up. And of course you’re given the option of deleting the songs if you want. Without too much time spent with Google, I can say that it’s perfectly acceptable in beta form – simple and easy to use. Of course compared to iTunes, it still feels a bit clunky. Judging from the screen shots of Android devices, it looks much better on them than it does on the web. If Apple does indeed launch their own service, it’s game on for the both Google and Amazon, yet with the resources the two have, they’re likely to be able to step it up and rise to the occasion. Whether you like it or not, the future of digital music is just about here, and if you’re a fan of music, you’re going to have to get on board.