Google is holding its annual I/O developer conference this week, a fortnight ahead of Apple’s similar event. While there were no direct music announcements during Google’s keynote last night, there was plenty for our industry to think about.
Starting with some big numbers: there are now more than 1bn Android users globally, and in the last 12 months alone they installed more than 50bn apps on their devices. (Yes, that suggests 50 apps installed a year by the average Android user, which sounds very high. Then again, it doesn’t say how many of those apps are actively used.)
Google unveiled the next version of its mobile software, Android M, and previewed a new technology called Android Pay for mobile payments. Its Google Now service is getting an upgrade too; the virtual-reality Google Cardboard initiative is expanding to iOS after shipping more than 1m cardboard VR headsets; and there’s also something called Project Brillo – a new version of Android designed for the internet of things.
With Google launching a standalone Google Photos app, the company was also maintaining that Google+ has a future. “Google+ is where people want to connect around their interests and passions,” said exec Bradley Horowitz last night.
“We’re also moving aside the things that either belong as independent products, like photos, or eliminating things that we think aren’t working… It’s fair to say you’re about to see a huge shift in what Plus is becoming. It’s a shift in response to what users are telling us,” he added in a follow-up interview.
There was no big news on Google’s streaming services YouTube Music Key and Google Play Music – indeed, Spotify seemed to have a higher profile at the event thanks to the launch of its Android Wear app – Spotify’s first smartwatch app. That could be seen as prioritising Android Wear over the Apple Watch, although it’s more likely that Spotify’s developers have had more time with the former, which launched last summer.
Google’s streaming subscription efforts are of great interest to the music industry, but arguably not such a priority for Google in the wider scheme of its business. Then again, its biggest force (for good) on the music industry is more about the Android platform – those billion users – and the platform it’s providing for digital music services alongside iOS.