On Wednesday Google stripped the “b” word from Music Beta by Google and transitioned Google Music into a one-stop shop for uploading, purchasing, and sharing music. Like Music Beta, Google Music will allow users to upload up to 20,000 songs to the cloud for free. The music.google.com portal still exists and looks nearly identical to its beta version. Users can upload their music to the cloud by clicking the “Upload Music” link in the top right corner; this will prompt you to open the Music Manager software, just like before. What’s new, however, is the link “Shop.” That’s right, Google is ready to go head-to-head with Apple and Amazon by selling songs directly to users. The Android Market has a new section called Music living among Apps, Books, and Movies. At this new Music store users can browse, preview, and purchase individual tracks and albums. Google has worked out deals with three of the four major labels–Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and EMI–and many independent labels to offer over 13 million tracks. Google has yet to partner with Warner Music Group, and the absence of their inclusion stings a bit. To ease the pain, they are offering exclusive content from some of the most popular artists like Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, and Dave Matthews Band. Free tracks and live concert albums are currently in the mix from a handful of artists. When you download music from the Android Market, the tracks automatically fly into the cloud and populate your Google Music library on your computer and mobile devices. If you have an Android device running 2.2 or higher the Music section of the Market is rolling out to you soon and you’ll be able to download tracks on the go. The Google Music app has already received an update and can be downloaded at the Market today. After downloading music from the store, Google lets you share your purchase with your Circles on Google+. When your friends see a track or album shared on their stream, they have the option to listen to your music once in its entirety! Next there’s the Google Music Artist Hub. The kind folks at Google are giving independent artists a means to upload their music to the Android Market. If you have the rights to distribute music, Google has built a simple interface to create your own artist page, upload original tracks, set prices, and sell content directly to customers. Indie artists keep 70 percent of the profits and Google gets the remaining 30. If this tickles your fancy, visit the Artist Hub to get started. Last, the G-Men have released a Google Music app for Google TV. It’ll let you can access your music library right on the TV.
And just like that, Google has set itself up to become a formidable contender in the music space. Video after the break.
Though none of these items were announced during Microsoft’s E3 keynote, there are certainly worthy of mention here. According to a recently outed Microsoft press release (in full after the break), cloud saves and beacons are coming to Xbox Live.
“Cloud Storage for Game Saves and LIVE Profile” — Here at Xbox LIVE we listen to your feedback. We are making it easier for you to sign into your Xbox LIVE account from any console at any time to access your game saves and full profile, including items such as Microsoft Points to make purchases, Achievements and friends. Cloud storage will allow you to enjoy the same great Xbox LIVE gaming experience even when you’re not in your own living room by giving you the option to store your “game saves” securely in the Xbox LIVE cloud instead of on a portable memory unit or your console’s hard drive. Gone are the days of “gamertag recovery.” Now all you need to do is sign in, no matter where you are!
“Beacons” — We want to make it easy for you to connect with friends over your favorite games on Xbox LIVE, so we are introducing Beacons to the service. Beacons are a way to tell your Xbox LIVE and Facebook friends that you want to play a game on Xbox LIVE. By setting a Beacon, you tell Xbox LIVE what you want to play. Then, Xbox LIVE lets you know when friends are playing or want to play the same game. With Beacons, no matter what you’re currently doing on Xbox LIVE your friends know that it’s ok to ask you to play your Beaconed games. Imagine sending out a Beacon to let your friends know you’re interested in playing “Halo,” while watching a movie on Netflix. It’s about making it easier for you to share and discover games and multiplayer opportunities with friends on Xbox LIVE.
In addition to these new software enhancements, a new accessory and limited edition console are coming out of Redmond, too. First up is the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel. It’s “completely wireless and controlled intuitively with precise steering, standard controller buttons/triggers, and haptic feedback with rumble.” It even includes “green bands of lights on each handle to provide visual cues when necessary.” And according to Microsoft it is compatible with all racing games right out of the box. But you know gamers will likely pair it with their new copy of Forza Motorsport 4. The wheel releases in early October for a cool $59.99.
Next and last is the Gears of War 3 limited edition console. For $400 Gears fans will get the exclusive red and black console design with two matching wireless controllers, a 320GB hard drive built-in, a wired headset, some DLC, and a copy of the game. And get this–“the power and eject buttons have been customized with unique sounds from the Gears of War universe. Drops September 20. Dig the controller design but don’t need a new Xbox? Come August 11 gamers can purchase it separately for $59.99. Check out images courtesy of Joystiq in the gallery below.
The ability to save game progress and content in the cloud is here; it’s exclusively for PlayStation Plus subscribers, though. For those who dish out $50/month for the premium service, listen here. After downloading the latest PS3 software update (v3.60, it came out today), you’ll be able to store up to 150MB of PS3 game save data in the cloud. Here’s the kicker: users who save their files to the cloud can access their data on any PS3, using their PSN sign-in ID. Secured game data backed up to the cloud and accessible anywhere–sounds like an extremely compelling hook to sign up for PS Plus.
Look after the break for the official PR that explains the process of backing up game saves.