Yesterday, I spent a few hours at Indiblogger's meetup in Gurgaon which was about introducing HP's Connected Music service to us bloggers. The event was held at a seemingly new Hilton property, the Hilton Garden Inn who were also excited to host their first bloggers' meet in their hotel.
One of my primary motivations for going all the way to that corner of Gurgaon was to see what the HP representatives had to say about the Connected Music service and to ask a couple of questions. Yes, as always, I had already done my research and had a few observations so I thought its time I heard their side of the story because they are launching a music service in a country where, after years of waiting, iTunes recently launched its music and movies store, that's how difficult it is to negotiate with so many record labels to bring them under one umbrella.
Since this was called 'Connected' Music, I was also curious about how this is different or better than the rig I currently have. As some of my friends know, I am a gadget hoarder, so I happen to own more than one mp3 player, two of them being iPods and then there is my Android phone and Android tablet. Because I am too lazy to look for a better music management software, I am still using iTunes for the job and it has over 5k songs at last count. Now what I have done is, uploaded most of these songs to the Google Music server from where the entire library can be streamed to my 'connected' Android device through the 'Play Music' app. Starting for the venue, my primary question for the HP representatives was going to be related to this. How is HP Connected Music different from this? But as it turns out, halfway through their presentation, I realised that this is very different from what I had in mind.
In a nutshell, HP Connected Music lets you stream or download music for free through a native app on Windows 8. You have free access to their entire music library for a period of 12 months from the day you register for the service. Sounds good eh? This is when things become a little more interesting.
First of all, Connected Music will only be available on select models of HP laptops running Windows 8, that is a problem for me because I will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to that OS (I have dealt with this in a separate post) because I don't like Microsoft telling me that I cannot have Ubuntu on dual boot in a machine I paid for. At the same time, I congratulate the guys at HP for bringing onboard Universal Music Group and Hungama.com, that can't have been an easy job but it has given them a music library of one million songs by twenty thousand artists across various genres and languages.
Now, yours truly was seduced by the gentlemen from HP with a mention of Carlos Santana (who I am listening to right now too). I went up there to search through their library for his tracks but alas.. when the search drew a blank on their website, I remembered that Santana is with RCA Records/Sony so these guys will not have his music. My second choice was Dire Straits but then they were with Warner as is Mark Knopfler. So, thats the other challenge with starting an online music service.
Another bugbear for many would be the fact that thanks to the DRM on tracks you download from the service, they cannot be played on any other device, shocking yes, but please do keep in mind that this song was downloaded for free, so it makes sense for them to not give you tracks with a 5 device license etc.,.
While fiddling with the service, I also noticed that it is not exactly an app, but more of a bookmark-ish button on the Start screen on Windows 8 that opens the website on IE (made me wonder if I can force it to open on FF). As of now they don't have any plans to build an app for this service. That makes sense because they seem to be testing the waters with this service. After a year, they will take another look at the service and decide the future course of action.
While the demo was on, I went online through my tablet and searched for their website, Google took me to their UK website which looked very different from what I was seeing on the projector.
|Connected Music UK with music control buttons|
I realised my mistake and searched for the India site because there was no way for me to change the country on the UK website and I was greeted by a notification that basically meant that I can't see the homepage of the service because I am on the wrong device/OS/browser (Galaxy Tab/ICS/Chrome). So I came home and tried this in Windows 7 on Firefox and IE. Every time I was greeted by the same page.
|Connected Music India on Windows 7 IE|
I am a very hyperactive and mobile person, I don't often listen to music on my laptop despite the fact that I paid extra to install better speakers on it (yeah, I know, don't start). Even if I am working on my computer, I will be listening to music through my phone or iPod or some other device. Most of my music appreciation takes place while travelling, whether it in the metro, cab, train or plane (haven't travelled on water yet). And these days I do have a lot of time to do this because I am travelling the length and breadth of Delhi, documenting the ruins, forts, tombs and walls from our glorious past with my camera. These, by the way, are being fed into my photo blogs at JPGmag and 500pixels. There is a lot of travelling involved and music that is stuck in my laptop is just music that I will rarely listen to. This is such a chronic condition that though much of my music collection is built with CDs, the music CDs that I've bought over the past decade are used just once, to be ripped on to iTunes and then locked away.
So, I don't think I am fit for a service like this though yes, I do use the Hungama app and quite like it when my 3G is not acting up. If you are the sort who listens to music on your laptop and are planning to buy a Windows 8 laptop, then do give HP a thought, but remember, not all HP laptops will ship with the app, check at the store for compatible devices and give them a go. The presentation looks slick, the music is free, and oh look, there is a laptop too :)
I sign off with Carlos Santana telling you about the possibilities of music.
"I grew up in the sixties watching B.B. King and Tito Puente and Miles Davis and Coltrane, everybody, Marvin Gaye, Jimi. And at the same time, with my left eye I was watching Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Mother Teresa."