Thursday, November 17, 2011

Google launches music service


(Reuters) - Google Inc has turned on the music at its new online store, aiming to wrest the lead from Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc in audio entertainment distribution despite the absence of a major record label.

Google Music, with more 13 million songs, will be integrated with Android Market, the company's online store for smartphone apps and videos as it plays catch-up with its rivals. Apple, Amazon and Facebook have to varying degrees integrated music into their core online and mobile products.

Google Music will allow the Web search leader to do the same by letting consumers access music from various Internet-connected devices and easily share tracks with friends.

But analysts said the lack of soundtracks from Warner Music - a major label whose artists include Led Zeppelin and Prince, among others - will limit the appeal of Google Music.

"They've got to get that catalog filled pretty quickly," said Mike McGuire, an analyst at industry research firm Gartner. "It's a launch, but it's kind of like a work-in-progress."

Google Music was unveiled at a splashy event at the Mr. Brainwash Studios in Hollywood, California on Wednesday.

Google has negotiated U.S. deals with three of the four major music companies: Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group; Sony Corp's Sony Music Entertainment; and EMI. It has also signed deals with the increasingly influential independent label group Merlin and London-based Beggar's Banquet label group, home to the year's biggest selling artist, Adele.

Analysts say selling online music is unlikely to provide much of a lift to Google's revenue. But they say Google needs to be in the market to ensure that its Android-based mobile efforts can match offerings from competitors.

Android is the world's No. 1 smartphone operating system, powering about 200 million devices worldwide. But without a music service, Android-based smartphones and tablets may not be as attractive to consumers seeking a product that offers a seamless media experience.

And with music storage increasingly moving to remote Internet servers in "the cloud" rather than on the device itself, companies like Google and Apple have a way to keep users locked in to their respective mobile services, said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis.

"Everyone is using music and media as a jail. Ultimately, this stuff is going to be stored in the cloud and it becomes harder and harder to switch systems," he said.

To help jump-start the new music store, Google said it will offer one free song for consumers to download every day. Learn More...

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