Google is finally launching its own music service. Google Music is a full-scale music service/store designed to compete with Amazon and Apple. Android boss Andy Rubin says they're very close to launch. About a dozen independent labels are have already joined forces with Google and the service is slated to arrive in the next two weeks.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that Google Music is off to a rocky start. Although Google has been talking to all four major music labels about licensing their catalogs for the new service, the The Wall Street Journal reported that only EMI (the smallest) is close to striking a deal.
Not bad, considering that EMI's artists include Nickelback and Katy Perry. That's nothing to sneeze at compared with Universal's cash cows Lil Wayne and Lady Gaga. Unless someone pulls out a panty-dropping offer, the other majors will likely hold out for as long as it takes to get a meaningful deal.
With talks breaking down, Google has now decided to move forward without the backing of those others - Warner, Sony and Universal. That's like the NBA launching a new season without the Lakers, Heat and Celtics. They'll surely be met with groans and tweets ending with #WTF.
And that's only half of Google's battle. They're also swimming in crowded waters. Amazon already offers a cloud service, and Apple has long held a mean hegemony on the MP3 industry for years.
Google is late to the game and knows it. Android's Rubin said at the recent AsiaD conference in Hong Kong that the service will offer a small twist. That twist could be a social sharing feature that allows users to buy songs and gift them to contacts via Google+ or some other Google service.
Speculations aside, though, one twist sure to make a difference is Google's plan to open up its interface to developers. Unlike Apple's walled garden, everyone's welcome to access Google's backyard and enhance the playground.
Still, Google is taking a major risk by going forward without the backing of the major record cartels. Imagine how frustrating it would be to search for some of the bigger names and get that annoying "0 found" message.
Universal and other big labels are reluctant to join forces with Google without a guarantee that the search giant will help them fight piracy. That's something that Google will probably address down the line if they want to be truly competitive.
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Remember when we reported Google's partnership with Motorola and how Motorola's patents could benefit Android? Well, that's one of the bright spots here - Google Music will make Android more competitive, thus giving users more options. Storing and syncing music should be easy-peasy for Android users, especially those who already signed up for Google Cloud beta.
Part of what made iTunes successful as a music service was that Apple created a whole ecosystem to go along with it - iTunes, iPods, etc. Google now has an opportunity do the same with Google Music and the Android.