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.
Hey you Google Music Beta-er. Got an iPhone and feeling left out? Be jealous of your Android-wielding friends no more! Google has brought its music locker service (still in beta, still requires an invite) to iOS devices in web app form. Sure it’s not a full-fledged app that Android users have been privy to for months now, but it gets the job done. On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch simply point Safari to music.google.com you’ll arrive at the new portal that’ll grant you access to your Music Beta song library on-the-go. Use your finger to swipe left and right and scrub through categories like Artists, Albums, Songs, Playlists, and Genres. Cheers!
Netflix’s new pricing scheme–effective today for new customers, and on September 1 for current subscribers–separates its unlimited streaming and unlimited DVD plans. In other words, Netflix will no longer be offering unlimited plans that include both streaming and DVDs by mail. The unlimited streaming plan remains at a low $7.99 per month, but if you want to tack on the unlimited DVDs by mail plan you’ll have to cough up an additional $7.99/month (that’s a grand total of $15.98 a month for unlimited streaming and DVDs, one DVD out at a time). Two DVDs out at a time jumps to a total of $19.98 (this plan costs $11.99 sans streaming).
It used to cost a mere $9.99/month for unlimited streaming 1 DVD out; this is a 60% price hike we’re talking about here! Here’s how Netflix’s Andy Rendich explains it: ”Netflix members love watching instantly, but we’ve come to recognize there is still a very large continuing demand for DVDs by mail. By better reflecting the underlying costs and offering our lowest prices ever for unlimited DVD, we hope to provide a great value to our current and future DVD-by-mail members.” Surely we must understand that in order for Netflix to flourish into the proper Blockbuster successor it’s always been destined to become that was to come a time when the company would start demanding more money from its subscribers. Well, that time is now and yeah it stings. But if Netflix continually beefs up its streamable content and Blu-ray library, I’m happy to follow them into the future.
Ben Gibbard and his Death Cab have teamed up with NPR to stream their seventh studio album in its entirety for free online. If you enjoyed the first two singles off the record “You Are a Tourist” and “Home is a Fire” head over to NPR’s music portal to taste all of what Codes and Keys has to offer. It releases later this month on May 31; it’s already up for preorder at iTunes.
YouTube’s been offering movies to rent since 2009, but the streaming service never really popped due to lack of popular content. Things are about to change. Thanks to super-duper partnerships with major Hollywood studios like NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros. the collection of rentable movies from YouTube just got a whole lot more exciting. In a press release, YouTube says that customers can expect classic films such as Caddyshack, Goodfellas, Scarface, and Taxi Driver to blockbuster new releases like Inception, The King’s Speech, Little Fockers, The Green Hornet and Despicable Me to start making their way into the video store shortly. New titles will continually be added to the library every week. The renting process is simple and works similarly to competitors out there (read: Apple TV, etc.). Sign into your YouTube account, browse the movies library, and rent a movie with your credit card. Pricing ranges from $2.99 to $3.99 depending on SD/HD resolutions and new releases vs. older selections. Interestingly the press release notes that the site supports video in up to 4k resolution, but I don’t see studios uploading that kind of quality in the foreseeable future. Once a movie is rented, customers will have 30 days to begin watching and once the movie is played it will vanish from existence in 24 hours. Note that movies are strictly streamed over the Internet and not downloaded locally. They are viewable on PCs and Google TVs only for the time being. YouTube is trying to differentiate itself by including “YouTube Movie Extras,” free behind-the-scenes videos, cast interviews, parodies, clips and remixes from YouTube’s unique community of content creators alongside the rentable movies.
Head over to youtube.com/movies to check out the new and highly improved movie selection. Full PR with FAQ after the break.
HBO first unveiled the HBO Go service in February 2010, promising subscribers access to their favorite premium TV shows and movies inside their browser. It never really caught on. Today HBO revealed its plan to bring the on-demand service to the mobile front, and I’ve got a feeling this will get the motors revving. Come May 2, HBO subscribers will have instant and unlimited access to every episode of every season available through HBO on their mobile devices. Featured content includes “HBO original series, blockbuster hits, sports, specials and more.” The company has specified it’ll be coming to iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad as well as Android-powered ones. The service is free for (paying) HBO subscribers and it’ll work over WiFi and 3G. The interface mimics the one they’ve been using inside the browser and it’s pretty slick; check it out in the video above.
OnLive, the gaming on-demand cloud-based service, scrapped the idea of implementing a required monthly fee back in October, but now they’re bringing it back and this time it’s optional. OnLive gamers will have three options to play games. (1) Purchase a game in full to keep. (2) With PlayPass gamers can buy a 3-day or 5-day rental pass to stream a full game. (3) With PlayPack (and here’s the new addition) gamers can pay $9.99/month to gain access to an entire catalog of games. Think of it as Netflix but for games; you pay one flat-rate per month and gain access to a bunch of full streaming games. Nice deal, huh?
The company says the new flat-rate plan will comprise more than 40 “high-quality” games when it officially launches January 15, 2011. Some of these games include Prince of Persia, Unreal Tournament 3, and LEGO Batman. They promise this small batch of initial games will “expand up to and beyond” the launch date. Now check this: if you purchase the OnLive Game System (which is a $99 controller and MicroConsole bundle) you will receive free access to the PlayPack library of games until the January launch. After this “introductory beta period” is over, you’ll have to pay the monthly subscription price if you don’t want to part with it.
Happy (video games) streaming. Full PR after the break.
But not so fast! There are two stipulations that must be discussed. First, SlingPlayer for iPad is only compatible with Sling SOLO and Sling PRO-HD boxes; all the rest are left in the dust, unfortunately. According to Engadget Sling will soon offer a $50 voucher for those who are itching to upgrade to a newer box. What’s interesting is that SlingPlayer for iPhone has a wider compatibility range; it works with the aforementioned boxes and the SlingBox PRO. And that brings me to point number two and more bad news. If you already purchased the $29.99 app for iPhone, you’ll have to shell out another thirty bucks to use the iPad version of the same app. Well, it’s not exactly the same app since the iPad version is tailored for a larger screen, but still. Sling assures that users can use the iPhone app to stream content on the iPad in a “Compatibility Mode”, but these users will not experience the “higher quality resolutions” provided in the iPad version. If I may quote Jigsaw from Saw, the choice is yours. Full PR after the break.
Here’s an update for you from Camp Netflix. A new $7.99/month plan gives subscribers the option to instantly stream TV shows and movies from their computer (or any Netflix-compatible device), and nothing else. If you’re the type of couch potato that rarely orders new DVDs by mail on a regular basis, this is the plan for you. If you prefer to stick with your current plan which includes unlimited instant streaming and DVD shipments there’s a price hike you should become aware about. The two most popular unlimited plans–the 1 DVD out at a time and 2 DVDs out at a time–are a dollar more than before, so prepare to cough up that extra Washington. Browse the chart embedded above to learn about the rest of the price increases. With Netflix instant streaming and Hulu Plus both priced at a low $7.99/month, you can safely say it’s on.
Hulu Plus has already been exhaustively detailed, so let’s get right to the good stuff. For the last four months Hulu has been testing the waters with the $9.99/month subscription based service in a preview period. Today the streaming service finally officially launched Hulu Plus to the masses. And at the same time they lowered the monthly fee to $7.99. Score! They say, “Any users who subscribed during the preview period will also receive a credit for the difference from the $9.99 preview price to be applied automatically to their next billing cycle.” So that’s been sorted out nicely. In tandem with the launch and price drop, Hulu Plus will now be accessible on Roku boxes. Check out the official PR after the break to see a list of all other Hulu Plus supported devices. All new subscribers to Hulu Plus receive a 1-week free trial–get started here.
Sony is really doing a splendid job at racking up the movies selection for its PlayStation 3 users. After making deals to bring television and movie content from Netflix and Hulu Plus, come November 23 PS3 owners will have access to VUDU’s on-demand movie service which includes more than 4,000 HD movies for all major Hollywood studios, including new releases available the same day they are released to DVD. VUDU supports 1080p HD and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound streaming, which is a big plus. VUDU plans to release a UI revision in mid-December, and it will bring a more streamlined user experience, intuitive structure, and support for next-generation motion-based input devices including the PlayStation Move controller. VUDU offers $2 for a two night rentals and new customers will receive a $5.99 credit; that’ll get you a ticket for one free HD streaming movie. Sony and VUDU official PR sits after the break. Catch a peek of VUDU on PS3 in the gallery below.
Last night the developers at Boxee hosted a launch party in NYC to celebrate the debut of the Boxee Box by D-Link. We already know everything there is to know about the Internet streaming box, so I’ll jump right into the juicy new details shared at the launch party. First, Netflix and Hulu Plus are coming to the Boxee Box; the former is expected to arrive before the end of the year, and there’s no release window for the latter though Boxee promises they’re working on it. They’re also working on an updated version of the 2-sided Boxee remote (one side control buttons, the other a QWERTY keyboard for search) that will include a dedicated Netflix button. VUDU, TED, VEVO, and VICE videos will be accessible to browse and stream on the Box, too. There’s also been some changes to the user interface since it was last previewed in the beta. The home screen is a lot more streamlined, making it easier to find your content and view featured content. A new drop down menu provides quick links to Home, Shows, Movies, Apps, Files, and a search bar. Music and photos have been pushed into the Files category until the Boxee team can find time to give it some more “TLC.”
And that about does it. Boxee Box can be yours today for a cool $199.99.
Hulu Plus preview opens up to everyone, now available on 2010 Sony BRAVIA TVs, coming next week to all PS3 users
Hulu is ready to take its premium subscription service to the next level by opening it up to more people. As of today you no longer need an invitation to subscribe to Hulu Plus; if you’re interested, go ahead and register for the service right now. Is your living room packed with Sony products? If so this next bit of news should crack a smile. Hulu Plus is now available to access on 2010 BRAVIA HDTVs and BRAVIA Internet Video Link via the BRAVIA Internet Video platform. It will “soon” be available on Blu-ray players, Blu-ray Home Theater Systems, Network Media Player, and Sony’s DASH. PS3 owners, listen here: Hulu Plus will open for all of you sometime next week. (Update (11/10): It’s available today.) Since July only those PS3 users who subscribed to PlayStation Plus (a $50/year service) could use Hulu Plus, but now Hulu is removing that road block and allowing all PS3 users with a (free) PSN account to sign up for their service. PS3 will remain the exclusive video games console with Hulu Plus access through the remainder of the year; it’s expected to land on Xbox 360 and Wii sometime in 2011. PR messages from Sony and Hulu sit after the break.
Conan O’Brien testing the Internet waters in pre-TBS premiere with ‘Show Zero’ [Update: watch it here!]
Conan doesn’t premiere on TBS for another week (we’re only one week away, woohoo!), but that won’t stop the former Late Night host from interacting with his fans. Tonight (11/1) Conan will be streaming live “Show Zero”, a short webisode that should give fans a taste of what to expect when his TBS debuts for real. Tonight’s show will feature Conan along with sidekick Andy Richter and The Show Zero House Band. Brought to you by–you guessed it–Coke Zero. It all goes down at 11PM in “TRIPLE-SIMULCAST action”; the stream can be accessed at TeamCoco (which has received a handsome relaunch design and new logo), YouTube, and Facebook. Happy streaming, and welcome back Coco!
Update: Wow, that lasted a whole 5 minutes. Conan wasn’t lying when he said this would be “the fastest talk show ever.” Conan introduced viewers to his offices, blasted through one monologue joke, and invited guests Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) and Steel Train (who only played the first chord off their new self-titled album) to make extremely brief cameos. The house band consisted only of Jerry Vivino on the flute. And Andy Richter was there to promote Diet Coke (not Coke Zero, strangely). Anyway, watch the mini-mayhem unfold after the break. (Click here for more…)
Check out this brief video demonstration of SlingPlayer running on Windows Phone 7. Full access to your set-top box content and controls is coming to Microsoft’s spankin’ new OS “soon.”
On October 20th at 1PM EST/10AM PST Conan’s HQ in Los Angeles started broadcasting LIVE to the Internet! They shoved a camera in the stairwell of their “comedy bunker” and you don’t want to miss all the crazy shenanigans that’s going down right now. The camera will remain on for a whole 24 hours. So far you’ve missed dancing tacos and a dude in a dog suit playing poker and drinking a water bottle through his eye hole. Watching the live stream is quite mesmerizing in the strangest way possible. Click here to access the stream. And if you’re on Twitter, go on and request the production crew/interns that pass by to do something crazy; don’t forget to hashtag your tweet with #LiveCocoCam. Right now it’s 4:30AM EST on the 21st, and there’s a late-night party going down, so whatcha waitin’ for?
Update: It’s over, folks. Head over to Team Coco to watch highlights from the 24 hour cam. Every wonderful shenanigan has been saved for posterity in video and still image formats. Fun fact: according to early estimates, some 660,000 people tuned into the live stream at some point during the 24 hour period. As Deadline so emphatically points out, that is the average audience TBS gets in the 11PM hour with George Lopez! Get ready America, Coco is coming.
OnLive, the gaming on-demand cloud-based service, is no longer requiring a monthy fee to access its features. This is really great news, so great in fact I’ll allow Founder & CEO Steve Perlman to explain the sudden change in philosophy.
Of course, we’ve had a promotion waiving the monthly fee for the first year, so this announcement is confirming what we had hoped—that we can continue without a monthly fee beyond the first year. Although we wish we could have confirmed no monthly fee from the get-go, pioneering a major new video game paradigm is hard: we had to first grow to a large base of regular users before we could understand usage patterns and operating costs. Now that we’ve reached that stage, we can confidently say a monthly fee is not needed, which deserves a double WOOT! WOOT!
Woot woot, indeed. The original plan was to waive the monthy fee for the first year, as Perlman explained, and then charge $4.95/month for the second year. All that’s been scrapped. Instant-play demos, massive spectating, brag clip videos, messaging, and friending are all absolutely free to access now. The only time you’ll need to whip out a credit card is if you decide to buy a 3-day or 5-day PlayPass to stream a full game. You may also decide to purchase a game for keeps. All in all this is an exciting move forward for OnLive. And coming this holiday season are the MicroConsole TV Adapters and OnLive Game Pad Controllers that promise to bring the games from the PC to the TV hassle-free. So watcha waiting for? Get your streamin’ on.
Netflix on the iPhone and iPod touch is no surprise; the free app was demoed at WWDC back in June and the iPad has been enjoying its company since launch. On August 26 the Netflix app was updated (to version 1.1.0) to support all iOS4 devices. The app will stream movies and TV shows over WiFi and 3G. Within the app you have access to your personal Instant Queue (which is managable right on the device) and you can search and add new content to your queue using a standard search method or viewing content by genre. You also have the ability to resume watching a show or movie right where you left off on your TV or computer. The app itself is free, but remember you must be signed up for a Netflix membership (which starts at $8.99/month) to login and start streaming. Download the app here and happy streaming! Look after the break for a brief video preview of the app in action.
Since its inception way back in 2005 YouTube limited video upload length to 10 minutes. After reviewing their most requested features, YouTube has decided to increase that limit by 50 percent to 15 minutes. Up to this point only revenue-sharing “parterns” have been allowed to upload video longer than 10 minutes, but now good ‘ol regular users can get in on the fun. I’m not so sure if I need to witness an extra 5 minutes of “double rainbow all the way” (OK, maybe I do), but this increase will definitely help out those users who upload lengthy tutorials; now you might notice a smaller amount of videos being broken up in “parts” thanks to the increase time limit. Take heed: “If you’re uploading a video that was previously rejected for being too long, you’ll have to go into “My Videos” and delete it before attempting to upload it again.”
In other YouTube news… do you remember the super simple but classic and highly addicting game called Snake? It was preloaded onto many early Nokia dumbphones back in the day. It’s the one where you take the form of a snake and your goal is to collect small food pellets the pop up in different areas on the screen; every time you eat a pellet the snake grows longer. You lose when you tie yourself up and make the snake’s head run into a part of its body or run into the edges of the screen. Anyway…YouTube has incorporated the game into all of its videos as an easter egg. While you’re waiting for a video to start streaming (or if it gets stuck buffering) start mashing the left arrow key on your keyboard to turn the video loading circle icon into a snake; play with the directional keys. If you want to give it a try but have fast Internet speeds, trying loading an intensive HD 1080p or better yet a 4K resolution video. Happy trails.
Check out Engadget’s thourough hands-on with Spawn Labs’ HD-720 box. This device allows you to stream your Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo Gamecube games from your console to your PC. It releases this November for $199.95.