Until March of this year, Simplify offered a free software application for PC and Mac that let users stream music from the iTunes or WinAmp libraries on their home computer, over the Internet, to other devices they own. The company also made an iPhone app that let the iPhone or iPod Touch receive these streams.
It was a nifty solution for users with big music libraries at home and limited storage space on their phones. But in March, Simplify abruptly stopped offering these products, and now we know why: Google had its own plans for the company.
On Thursday, Google engineering Vice President Vic Gundotra said Google would begin offering a desktop app based on Simplify Media's technology, building the receiving technology into a future version of the Android OS. This is a quick and clever way for Google to bolster Android's music capabilities.
I had wondered if Google might buy a company like Melodeo or MP3Tunes, which let users back their music collections up to the cloud, then stream those songs from the cloud to their phones. In fact, another competitor in this space, MSpot, just announced its music locker and corresponding Android app at the Google I/O conference on Wednesday. But the big record labels aren't too fond of music lockers: they've tried to sue MP3Tunes out of existence, and Apple reportedly ran into resistance when it floated the idea of launching a music-locker service based on its 2009 acquisition of Lala.
By using Simplify instead, Google stays out of the legal quicksand--it doesn't have to store any music on its servers. The drawback of the Simplify approach is that the user's home computer has to be turned on in order for the streaming to work.
But the Simplify acquisition may be only the beginning. Gundotra also showed a new version of the online Android marketplace, with a Music link to download songs. It was just a demo--no deals with content owners have been signed yet--but the message was clear: iTunes, watch your back.