June 26, 2013, 6:00 AM —
Today's first topic is a little bit of a public service announcement. The deadline for locking in Google Play Music All Access's reduced monthly cost is coming up (June 30th). If you start your free 1 month trial to the service by then and decide the service is worth paying for, it'll cost you $7.99/month. If you miss this 'early adopter' deal, it'll cost you $9.99/month.
My free trial expired some time ago and I opted to keep paying. Now I'll be the first to admit I'm somewhat promiscuous when it comes to streaming music services. I tend to jump between them pretty often. So keep that in mind when I tell you I'm enjoying Google's All Access service.
So why do I like it? My standard first stop on launching All Access is the Recommendations tab (under Explore). A lot of what winds up being recommended to me is music I am, or more accurately have been, familiar with but which I don't have in my collection. I get a lot of "Oh wow, I haven't listened to that album in decades!" moments. I can almost always find something to listen to in Recommendations.
If I'm feeling like something a bit off the beaten path I'll check out a Featured Playlist, either under the Features tab or under a specific genre. Both are a great way to expose yourself to new music.
I don't use the Radio tab a lot, but when I do it seems like a capable feature. How's that for non-committal?
I also like that they offer an HTML5 version of the web player, though you have to go under Settings->Music Labs to enable it. I find it works really well and will run all day without crashing the way any and every Flash player I've ever used seems to do eventually.
I'm a pretty mainstream guy so I don't run into a lot of situations where a music service doesn't have the tunes I want to listen to. But if you've got a bunch of Dead bootleg recordings you love, you can upload them to Google Music and mix them in with the All Access content. As far as playlists and accessing from a mobile device and such, your music and All Access music is just the same.
One thing Google Play Music All Access isn't, is social. True, you can share songs and albums to your friends on Google+, and you can share a playlist with anyone, but that's about it. Personally I've come to accept that I don't want 'social' music because I don't often share musical tastes with my friends, so this is a benefit for me but if you're really into having everything in your life be social, this might not be the service for you.
Anyway, they're offering a free 1 month trial and if you're on the fence, start that trial before June 30th just in case you decide you want to sign up. You can learn more by trying the service for an afternoon than I could ever tell you in a blog post.
The other music service I wanted to talk about today is Xbox Music. At the moment you can only access Xbox Music on an Xbox, via a Windows 8 "Modern" app, or on Windows Phone 8. The service is finally breaking free of those narrow confines, according to The Verge. If their tipster is correct (and Engadget seems to have confirmed the rumor with Microsoft), starting next week you'll be able to access Xbox Music at http://music.xbox.com/.
Next up, one would hope, would be iOS and Android apps, but I guess we'll take things one step at a time. I haven't spent any significant time with Xbox Music but I know Microsoft's old Zune Pass had a lot of passionate fans. Hopefully Microsoft can re-capture that enthusiasm once it gets Xbox Music out in wider circulation.
If you're a fan of the service, I'd really appreciate a comment telling us how it is!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.