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.”