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) --


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took a swipe at


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iTunes on Tuesday, announcing plans for a

cloud-based music service

at its I/O developers' conference.

"Today we're introducing Music Beta by Google," explained Google product manager Paul Joyce, during a keynote presentation, aiming a quick jab at the iPhone maker. "Your music collection is stored in the cloud, so you that you can stop worrying about where your songs are and start enjoying your music."

"This means that I will never have to add a cable to listen to my music again," he added, clearly warming to his theme. "Having all my music available to me wherever and whenever is very powerful."

Joyce explained that the beta version of Google's music service is available today, and will initially be offered on an invitation-only basis to select U.S. users. "At least while it's in beta, the service is free," he said, but did not reveal pricing or say when the service will be generally available.

Google shares rose $5.56 or 1.03%, to $543.24 on Tuesday.

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Apple itself is rumored to be planning a

major push into cloud services

, which is likely to include a cloud-based version of its iTunes music service. The tech giant has promised "to unveil the future of iOS and Mac OS," at its Worldwide Developers' Conference in June,

further fueling expectations

of a major cloud announcement.

Google, which announced its plan to

offer new movies via YouTube

on Monday, further fleshed out its entertainment strategy at the I/O event. Movie rentals are now available from Google's Android market, according to the Internet giant, which said that it has thousands of movies available from $1.99.

The movies can be downloaded from the Android market for a 30-day rental period, and once consumers start viewing a movie they have 24 hours to finish watching it. Movies can be rented onto a home computer and be available for viewing on the customer's Android mobile devices.

Other Google announcements on Tuesday included Android 3.1, an upgraded version of the company's Honeycomb tablet OS, which offers improved widgets and the ability to turn Android devices into USB hosts. The upgrade will be immediately available to


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customers using


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XOOM tablet, and will reach Google TV during the summer, with the service also offering movie rentals.

Google also discussed its next major version of Android, dubbed "Ice Cream Sandwich" on Tuesday, which will debut during the fourth quarter. "We're taking all the good stuff that we made available for tablets on Honeycomb, and we're offering that for everything," said Mike Cleron of Google's Android developer team. This, he added, will include Honeycomb's new multitasking user interface.

The tech giant, which recently reported a

mixed set of first-quarter results

, said that it is now activating more than 400,000 Android devices every day.

"The Android market is seeing stronger, faster growth than ever," said Hugo Barra, Google's product management director for Android, adding that more than 4.5 billion apps have been downloaded. "The entire ecosystem is now being rewarded."

Barra also announced that Google now has over 200,000 apps available in its Android market place. This figure, however, is still less than Apple, which offers 350,000 apps in its App Store.

With newly re-installed CEO Larry Page coming under pressure to

return Google

to its techie, innovative roots, the company also gave a peek into its Android vision on Tuesday, demonstrating how mobile devices will interact with exercise equipment and even household objects such as reading lamps.


Written by James Rogers in New York


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