After a summer of beta testing and months of rumors, Google officially launched its long-rumored Google Music service on Wednesday in an attempt to compete with the undisputed champion of digital downloading, Apple's iTunes.
The initial reaction from Silicon Valley tech writers was that the service was, well, pretty similar to iTunes, but, you know, not as great. Google's bid to break Apple's decade-long supremacy in the digital music realm allows users to store up to 20,000 songs in their personal locker on the Google cloud service. That is similar to what Apple's Match cloud server offers its users, except, according to one Google exec, his company won't be charging an annual fee to allow users to listen to their own music on the cloud. (Apple's Match charges a $25 annual fee for storage.)
So far, Google has signed up three of the four major record labels -- Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI -- but has not yet reached a deal with the Warner Music Group, which has a 20-percent share of the U.S. market. Among the Warner acts you won't find on Google Music are Wiz Khalifa, Nickelback, Frank Sinatra, Green Day, Gucci Mane and Mastodon.
Google has signed up a number of independent labels as well and there was the vague promise of a potential Warner deal in the future. For now, though, the search giant is differentiating itself from the competition by allowing artists who self-release their music to directly upload their songs for purchase on Google Music and set their own pricing schemes.
Google Music also lets users share the music they've bought with friends via the Google+ social networking platform. Once you've purchased a song or album from the Android Market, you can then send a stream to a pal using Google+ and they can listen to the tune once for free. The service, with prices similar to those on iTunes, will also be offering a free song of the day and is currently touting exclusive tracks from a number of artists, including Coldplay, the Rolling Stones and Busta Rhymes.
Will you check out the Google Music service?