There's a new Spotify competitor in town, and its name is -- take a breath here, if you're reading out loud -- Google Play Music All Access. What separates it from Spotify, besides the increased time it will take to type (or speak into your Google Glass)? It always costs money -- $9.99 a month, after a 30-day free trial.
That is probably not the differentiating feature streaming-music consumers were looking for.
In Google's defense, it's a very attractive app, bedecked in the most current Android UI cues and looking a little more like something you should pay for than Spotify usually does. But the trojan horse that got Spotify into America in the first place was free music -- even more of it than it offered in Europe.
Even though it makes the company no money, Spotify continues to offer Americans who'd leapt early onto the pay-per-download model all the free music (and advertisements) they can stomach.
Google Play Music All Access -- that seriously is its name -- isn't really a Spotify competitor so long as it's $9.99 out the door and only available on PCs and Android phones. Which means that the goal for GPMAA -- that seriously is its acronym -- probably isn't to beat Spotify (or Rdio or Pandora, etc.), at least not at first.
If I had to guess, their goal is this: To finally eke a little money out of Android, the operating system they created, which has created a ton of profit for Samsung and basically nobody else, Google included.
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Android's original reason for existence was to keep people inside the Google ecosystem, which turned out to be both less remunerative than anybody thought and weirdly short-sighted: Its open-source roots mean that its most successful players -- Amazon, Samsung, most recently Facebook -- would rather just build their own ecosystems, instead.
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Which leaves Google with a weird realization and a business model that's totally flipped from what made them Google -- on phones, being able to collect a ton of data about everybody and serve them ads isn't enough. On your computer, Google gives you a bunch of free apps that are better than the ones you could pay for; they're the default choice.
On phones -- even on their own phones -- they have to woo you away from Apple or Amazon or Samsung or whoever else you've deposited all your stuff with. And now, in the case of Google Play Music All Access, whose name I almost have memorized, they're going premium.
Will you pay $9.99 a month to listen to music on your Galaxy S? Are you paying anybody $9.99 right now?