Google to unveil music store to rival Apple iTunes

Company expected to take the wraps off Google Music later today

Those who have been waiting for word on Google's launch of an online music store may have their questions answered later today.

For several months, there has been speculation that Google was developing a music store, and online buzz about it hit a high pitch this week. Google is holding a press conference at 5 p.m. ET today and it's expected that the company will unveil Google Music, an online music store that will go head-to-head with Apple iTunes.

"If they do it right, it could be huge and create a true two-horse race with iTunes in the music world," said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research. "Apple has a hugely loyal base, of course. But if you're not an Apple fan, this is a great alternative -- that is, if Google gets the content."

Earlier this week, what were reportedly screen shots of Google's music service appeared on a Spanish tech website. The images quickly fueled speculation that the service is ready to launch.

Just a few weeks ago, it was reported that Google was planning to integrate the upcoming music service with its fledgling social network, Google+. According to reports, Google Music users would be able to share music with friends on Google+, where users could listen to songs for free and then have the option of buying them from the social network.

That integration would support early comments made by Google CEO Larry Page in October that he foresees Google+ transforming the company and its various services.

Kerravala said integrating a music service with other Google services, such as search, Google+ and Maps, will be important to boosting the new music service.

He also said that if any company has the clout to take on Apple's highly popular iTunes store, it would be Google.

"Google is the only company with the integration points that would be needed," Kerravala said. "If Google could get people to use their music service as part of other Google services, they could steal some share [from Apple]. Google can integrate music into so many other applications. No one else has these customer touch points -- Google+, search, Gmail."

He explained that if a user was looking for a certain band on Google's search service, the user could be given a link for downloading the band's music from Google Music. Similarly, if someone using Gmail sent a friend a message about a new singer, a link could be included that would take the friend to a download option.

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 e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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