Friday, April 16, 2010

Google Needs It’s Own iTunes

Anyone that’s read my blog before knows that I’m a Google fanboy, and despite owning an iPod Nano, I’m not a huge fan of the ‘walled garden’ approach of Apple. I cannot deny that Apple’s hardware design is market leading, but I hate being a slave to Steve Jobs’s vision of our digital life.

A big part of the iPod/iPhone success can be directly related to the success of iTunes. I personally stopped using iTunes when I discovered MediaMonkey, because I only sync music and podcasts, and MediaMonkey is a superior product for this purpose (in my opinion). However, for the full media experience, users of the latest generation of iPods, and especially iPhones, users want to sync video and apps as well, and MediaMonkey doesn’t have this capability. In South Africa, we still don’t have (legal) access to the iStore (for music), so this is also not a requirement for me.

iTunes has it’s faults, but once you have all your media set up, the process of syncing your Apple device is as easy as plugging it in and hitting ‘sync’. It just works. And people that have used it have come to expect this simple ‘one click’ functionality.

Google doesn’t offer any comparable software that can do this with your Android based phone, and until they do, they won’t enjoy the same device loyalty that Apple has. The majority of people that use iTunes aren’t going to settle for anything less.
What Google doesn’t seem to realise, is that most people are still more comfortable searching for content on their home PCs. The ease of using a big screen and physical keyboard far outweighs the convenience of doing the same thing on a portable device. I want to be able to sit at my PC, access the internet via my uncapped broadband connection, download an album, a couple of new apps, select a photo album from my hard drive that I want to show my mates, rip a DVD, and sync the whole lot to my portable media device/phone, preferably wirelessly, with one click. Is that too much to expect?
The technology to do all of this exists, and to mash it all together into one application would be simple for a company with the resources of Google. The Google owned Picasa application is one of the best photo (and video) managers available - a similar app for music would be brilliant. It could even be added into Picasa. Picasa syncs to the online Web Albums app, and it would be simple to create a similar online music app. They could even use the Lala model, whereby you don’t have to physically upload each song, but if it’s on your HD, it’s added to your online library from a central server. I could imagine listening to music loaded on my Android based phone, and if I can’t find the song I want, switching to the web app and streaming it to my phone. Don’t own it? Use the search function and either buy it and download it, or stream it for a couple of cents.
Such an online photo/video/music web app would fit in perfectly with the soon to be released Chrome OS. Google’s vision for Chrome OS is that it would run on fairly basic machines, with minimal, solid state hard drives. No space for a 40 Gb music library! The OS will be a browser. However, they haven’t offered a solution for playing back media yet. Viewing photos and video could be covered by Picasa Web Albums, but to date they are relying on 3rd party apps like Spotify for music. They would be much better served if they offered their own app.
What’s in it for Google? Well, once a customer had the software set up and all his media connected, he wouldn’t want to switch to another platform and start all over again. when his contract expires, he’s going to upgrade to another Android based phone, or Chrome OS based laptop or tablet. He would be locked in. That’s the real beauty of iTunes.
Thanks for reading.