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Google latest to bypass iOS App Store

Offers HTML5 version of new cloud music service for iPhone and iPad, no firm plans for downloadable app

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 12 September, 2011

READ MORE: Google | App Store | Applications (Browser) | iOS

In a rare miscalculation, Apple seems to have underestimated how quickly content publishers would race to bypass its App Store once it introduced stringent new rules on in-app sales. The Financial Times newspaper led the way to offering an HTML5 product - with no need to go to the App Store or for Apple to get its 30% revenue cut. Now the iPhone maker's most dangerous rivals are going the same way, most recently Google, which has unveiled an iOS version of its cloud service Music Beta, accessible from the browser.

Apple antagonists like Google and Apple are not abandoning the downloadable app altogether as the FT has, but that could come as HTML5 usage rises - and both have an interest in promoting the browser-based web services over the App Store products. Google, in particular, believes the content world will eventually move away from downloads and local storage to the cloud and streaming, boosting its own online revenue streams. And many firms are keen to break the rigid control that Apple exercises over anything in its App Store, not to mention the revenue shares.


Earlier this year, Apple ruled that publishers could not provide a purchasing link from an iOS app to their own web sites, but could only support buying within the app. However, with HTML5 users can bypass any store, and by visiting the web site once, get a short cut from their homescreen to the content, and a quality of experience which has now come very close to that of a local app. This gives Google and others the opportunity, for the first time, to whittle away at the power of the App Store, and sees Apple's own support for HTML5 starting to hurt it.

Available at music.google.com, the beta offering enables customers to stream their digital music library from the cloud, using the iOS touchscreen to support swiping between search, shuffle and related functions. The app also harnesses existing iOS music controls, with music continuing to play in the background after users exit the Safari browser.

Google would not reveal, when questioned by TechCrunch, whether it would also roll out a native Music Beta app for iOS. "We're considering all options to bring the service to more people, but don't have anything official to share," a spokesperson said. Music Beta first appeared in May and is currently invitation-only. As well as PCs, it is heavily focused on Android and on Flash, which is famously not fully supported by the iPhone and iPad - until now. With the release of Adobe's Flash Media Server 4.5, it seems that iPhone users will be able to access Flash content at last, albeit in a manner not approved by Apple.

The new Media Server release "expands on its mobile delivery options with the addition of iOS support" and will let businesses "use the same media and live streams to deliver full adaptive bit-rate experiences to platforms supporting Flash, as well as Apple devices", says the official Adobe statement. Users can bypass the Safari browser, which does not support Flash, and instead receive Flash content via HTTP Live Streaming or Dynamic Streaming - ironically the protocols that Apple developed to let content providers send live or pre-recorded audio and video to iOS and Mac devices from an ordinary web server.

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