Google Music: Why iTunes isn’t the real target

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Google launched its Music product this week and the industry’s immediate response was that this launch is aimed at taking on iTunes and that it is eight years too late. Au contraire. Whilst offering a “locker” and a store, it’s the integration with Android and Google+ that holds the key to the broader strategy for Google.

The music-in-the-cloud strategy is a no-brainer for Google on the storage front. It’s stored gajillions of emails for Gmail, documents and spreadsheet data for Apps and various other user product data for more than half of its existence. By relying on its advertising revenue from Adwords and Adsense, Google can offer a certain amount of space for free, Music Locker is no different and lets users store up to 20 000 songs online. If we have to compare this to the iTunes equivalent, we’re looking at US$25 a year for 25 000 songs.

In addition to the storage debate, the usual content owner vs Google fallout in terms of what can and cannot be offered has reared its head. Again, if we compare Apple’s offering with Google’s, we can see that Warner content, for example, is available on the former and not the latter. If you’re into Diddy then Google Music isn’t for you yet. Google’s introduction presentation focused a lot on independent labels like Merlin Network and it proudly displayed an area of the product called “Artist Hub” which aims to promote lesser known bands. With that said: Content agreements, and Google’s chequered past when it comes to them, need to be ironed out in order for the service to be more compelling.

Despite the “larder half full” argument in terms of its content offering, Google Music will be buoyed by the ever increasing number of Android users. That said, Google Music doesn’t offer content matching at all and this means in order to access your music from the locker you will have to upload everything first — a hefty data price to pay, unless you’re on a high-speed uncapped connection.

When we speak about social media, and Google’s biggest attempt at it, we start talking about a product ecosystem. Google+ is the platform upon which their really cool yet disparate product range can operate and Music is no different. Google Music users will be allowed to share their purchases to their Circles on Google+ and friends will be able to listen to the track once off. As Apple’s “Ping” product has been a bit of a flop, the real battle is with the Facebook/Spotify alliance. What makes the battle that much sweeter is that Spotify’s “free” music listening service is ad-supported — sound familiar? Google is offering a free song everyday on its Music service, but is one daily free song enough to sway the average Spotify user to switch?

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