Google may add to Android with online music store

Google may be weeks away from launching rival to Apple iTunes, report say

Google is reported to be in the process of building an online music store to rival Apple's and Amazon's popular services.

However, Google has yet to firm up deals with the biggest record labels, which could put the company at a disadvantage as it embarks on this new venture.

Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported that Google could launch the service without the rights to sell songs from some of the biggest record labels, like Sony Music and Warner Music Group. According to the Journal, which sites unnamed sources, only EMI Group, a smaller player in the music recording industry, is close to finalizing a deal with Google.

Citing unnamed music executives, the Times reported that Google is looking to launch the online music store in the next several weeks.

Google has not responded to a request for comment.

The expected service would be linked to Music Beta by Google, a service launched last May designed to enable people to store music in the cloud and then stream it to different devices, such as tablets, smartphones and PCs.

When Google Music Beta was unveiled, the service didn't have a repository of music from which people could buy and download songs. At this point, it's still set up only as a service that people can use to store their own music and sort it into playlists.

When Google's Music Beta was unveiled, Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said he expected Google to follow up that move by opening an online music store soon thereafter.

"For Google, it's yet another service that can deliver eyeballs to Google pages and advertisers," said Olds in an interview at that time. "It's not a music store yet, but can that be far behind? And if it does become a full-fledged music and media store, it has the potential to break Apple's hammerlock on content providers."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said he can't see a Google music store being much of a threat to Apple's popular iTunes store, although it could be a welcome addition for people who use devices running Google's Android mobile operating system.

"It's a completeness play, not an attempt to dethrone Apple or Amazon," he added. "It helps fill out the Android offering. It gives Android an answer to iTunes."

An online music store from Google also would be a direct attack on Amazon.com, which offers the Amazon Cloud Player, a cloud-based service that was launched this past spring. Since Cloud Player is also a new entrant in the music business, it could be more vulnerable to competition from a Google service than iTunes would be.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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