3 Features Google Music Needs to Fix to Compete with iTunes

Google is trying desperately to get you to use their music service – which has been available for over a year now and out of Beta for seven months. There are several things the music service does better than any other, but adoption rates have been less than what Google would have wanted. When Google Music launched (now titled Google Play Music, Music Play, whatever), the service’s store failed to have all of the major labels (Warner Music Group). In fact, the service still fails to feature Warner Music Group. It seems not everyone was convinced it would be a success. So far, it’s still hard to tell.

As adoption of the service remains mixed, how does Google change perception and adoption? Below are three features that could really tip engagement and surgically fix a problem Google has been putting Band-Aids on for years.

1. Downloadable Player

Why? Google is obsessed with getting you to the cloud – and while that’s fine and dandy – Google needs to make more bridges than moats. People resist change, especially when that change isn’t slapping them across the face.

The player itself could function the same way the Music Manager currently does – just behind the scenes. Google is missing an opportunity to give people the option of playing all of the music they bought with iTunes (except DRM locked iTunes files – anything bought before April 2009), just with Google Play branding on it. Spotify does this well, by detecting any music file on your computer and populating it in their player while also connecting to its cloud services.

But with the development of Chromebooks, the burden on them to pull everything off of your hard drive and onto their servers has never been greater. This makes it a tough sell to institute a downloadable app, in order to create the illusion that anything and everything can be executed with a Chromebook.

With that said, meet in the middle. HTML5 is a magical language. Create a downloadable app for the traditional desktop and maximize the benefit of the HTML5 on the Chromebook. A special breed of user owns a Chromebook, and best guess suggests that a Chromebook is not their only computer. Once again, create bridges.

2. Make Music Manager Operate Behind the Scenes

Google could develop a mobile indicator next to each file. The benefit? Assuming Google creates the downloadable player, while the user is using the music he/she already owns under Google’s branded player, their music is simultaneously being uploaded to the cloud. The objective here is to get people past the initial challenge of uploading large media catalogues in order to start using the service.

For instance, I have over 11,000 songs. This equates to right around 60+ GB of music. When I uploaded my music, it took 3 straight uninterrupted days. It may seem like a first-world problem (it is a first-world problem), but many people put off things that take their WiFi out of commission with heavy payloads that need to get uploaded. One way around this is a trick of sorts. The idea, is to get them through the front door. Because people respond to what they know, making a product that gives them the benefits of iTunes, but all of the other additional features Google Music currently offers is how to create digital immigrants. So by having a status marker next to each song that indicates whether it is available for online use should be seen as an enhancement not a burden.

3. Mobile Prompting and Device Management

This is another utterly ridiculous problem with Android. Since Android entered the smartphone market, there has been no user-friendly way to manage the content on your device that is not already in the cloud. iTunes has done this with the iPhone since it launched back in 2007. So where’s Android’s? It seems Google’s obsession with getting you to the cloud as quickly as possible is a risk they are willing to take while currently impacting usability.

56 percent of the global smartphone market has Android devices. Imagine if every one of those devices prompted you to download a device management tool titled Google Play once connected to a computer? This would instantly increase adoption of Google Music and all of its intangibles like Apple’s iTunes. Not only does it make Android more appealing and user-friendly, but it increases user engagement as well as user purchases from Google Play. People take notice to these types of changes, and it could be enough to finally get Warner Music Group onboard as well as others.

For a company that’s impacted the tech world with its insight and ambition this one seems pretty obvious. So if Google really wants to make a statement to iOS, iTunes, and the App Store, this (or something like it) needs to happen. It’s the last little bump in a series of mountains Android and Google have already overcome, but a pesky bump it remains.


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