Google Inc has turned on the music at its new online store,aiming to wrestle the lead from Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc inaudio entertainment distribution despite the absence of a majorrecord label.
Google Music, with more 13 million songs, will be integratedwith Android Market, the company's online store for smartphone appsand videos as it plays catch-up with its rivals. Apple, Amazon andFacebook have to varying degrees integrated music into their coreonline and mobile products.
Google Music will allow the Web search leader to do the same byletting consumers access music from various Internet-connecteddevices and easily share tracks with friends.
But analysts said the lack of soundtracks from Warner Music - amajor label whose artists include Led Zeppelin and Prince, amongothers - will limit the appeal of Google Music.
"They've got to get that catalogue filled pretty quickly," saidMike McGuire, an analyst at industry research firm Gartner. "It's alaunch, but it's kind of like a work-in-progress."
Google Music was unveiled at a splashy event at the Mr BrainwashStudios in Hollywood, California today.
Google has negotiated US deals with three of the four majormusic companies: Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group; Sony Corp'sSony Music Entertainment; and EMI.
It has also signed deals with the increasingly influentialindependent label group Merlin and London-based Beggar's Banquetlabel group, home to the year's biggest selling artist, Adele.
Analysts say selling online music is unlikely to provide much ofa lift to Google's revenue. But they say Google needs to be in themarket to ensure that its Android-based mobile efforts can matchofferings from competitors.
Android is the world's No. 1 smartphone operating system,powering about 200 million devices worldwide. But without a musicservice, Android-based smartphones and tablets may not be asattractive to consumers seeking a product that offers a seamlessmedia experience.
And with music storage increasingly moving to remote Internetservers in "the cloud" rather than on the device itself, companieslike Google and Apple have a way to keep users locked in to theirrespective mobile services, said BGC Partners analyst ColinGillis.
"Everyone is using music and media as a jail. Ultimately, thisstuff is going to be stored in the cloud and it becomes harder andharder to switch systems," he said.
To help jump-start the new music store, Google said it willoffer one free song for consumers to download every day.
Google will also allow consumers to share purchased songs withfriends on the Google+ social network. The feature will give usersof Google+ a "free, full-play" of songs purchased by theirfriends.
"Recommendations from friends are the single most important waythat people discover music and we think that this feature has thepotential to really transform purchasing behavior," said ZahavahLevine, Google's director of content partnerships for Android, atthe launch event.
Music executives said that even though sales have struggled inrecent years, music usage has never been more popular on differenttypes of formats like social networks and mobile devices.
Facebook, the world's largest social network, unveiled a tab inSeptember through which music services like Spotify, Rdio and MOGenable Facebook users to share music. Amazon has also long been amajor music retailer and has a music locker service
Earlier this year, Google unveiled the Google Music beta, whichallowed users to upload their music to Google servers, and accessthe music from multiple devices.
Shares of Google, which finished Wednesday's regular session atUS$611.47, were up 72 cents in after-hours trading.
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