Google plans to take on Apple iTunes by building a music service tied to its search engine, according to the Wall Street Journal. Will it let users store their music online in a "cloud"? Maybe. Will it allow for unlimited downloads on Android phones with a monthly fee? Maybe. Nobody knows! Details are vague and a proper announcement isn't expected for months.
Peter Kafka has a smart take:
A viable music store gives Google the following:
- A value-add for Android and a wedge against one-time ally Apple
- An owned-and-operated destination for all the music search traffic Google currently sends out to MySpace Music (via iLike) and Rhapsody, Pandora, etc.
- And just maybe, a reason for consumers to finally sign up for a Google Checkout account, which has had little traction despite years of effort. If Google can get Google Checkout up and running and create the billing relationship with its users that Apple and Amazon (AMZN) already enjoy, then all sorts of other businesses, from YouTube movie rentals to Android app sales, become much more interesting.
This is all very interesting, but the barriers to music have just fallen so far for me to get over-excited about music tech ideas. And it's not just about bittorrent and other extralegal downloading services.
For my dad's birthday, my cousin gave him a flash drive with 1,300 songs. I can upload those songs on to my Android phone and listen to $1,300 worth of music (going by iTunes prices) for free, on account of my cousin knows how to upload files. With wireless on my Android phone, I can listen to YouTube songs on the Web, for free. I can listen to playlists of YouTube songs on the Web, for free. As our entertainment devices go mobile, and mobile wifi goes ubiquitous, the barriers to free information, including music, will continue to fall. So while I wish Google well and highly anticipate their idea for selling music, I'm reminded that we're already living in a world where people who don't want to pay for music simply never, ever, ever have to pay for music.