Google launches music and movie service and takes a jab at rival Apple
Google Inc. Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra addressed the elephant in the room at the Internet giant's annual software developers conference Tuesday morning in San Francisco with an image: the green Android robot devouring an apple, as in Google's chief rival in the smartphone market.
Gundotra got an appreciative roar from the 5,000 software developers in the audience who make their living from building applications for Android devices.
Gundotra had some fun at last year's Google I/O conference at Apple Inc.'s expense, but he insisted it was all in good fun.
"We try not to take ourselves too seriously," Gundotra said.
But the competition is deadly serious.
Google on Tuesday unveiled services that let users rent movies and listen to music streamed to their Android devices, escalating competition with Apple, which has been a leader in both areas with its popular digital media players and iTunes software.
Of greatest interest was the music service, which lets users upload up to 20,000 songs to computers and mobile devices. It is similar to a service recently launched by Amazon.com Inc.
Users will not be able to buy new songs through the Google service. It did not launch an online store amid difficulties with securing licenses from two out of the four major recording labels. The Google music service initially will only be available in the U.S. by invitation. It will be free while it's in beta, meaning while it's being tested. Google did not say if it planned to charge for the service once testing is complete. Apple is negotiating licenses to beef up its own online music service.
Google also said Tuesday that it is planning a new version of Android mobile software called "Ice Cream Sandwich," which it expects to release in the fourth quarter. The upgrade is designed to accelerate Android's already torrid growth. Google said 100 million devices have the Android operating system and 400,000 new devices are activated each day.
The statistics of greatest interest to this gathering of software developers: Google said it has 200,000 applications available in its Android market that have been downloaded 4.5 billion times. Apple said in January that its apps store has more than 350,000 applications that have been downloaded more than 10 billion times.
"It's great to be in a battle for the hearts and minds of developers," Gundotra said. He said the battle inspires both companies to work even harder.
"At the end, consumers benefit," he said.
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo: A green Android robot pretends to eat an Apple MacBook. Credit: Laihiuyeung Ryanne