Google Inc. entered the online music market today -- almost a decade too late to pose a threat to Apple Inc. (AAPL), the largest seller of songs on the Web.
The service, unveiled at a Google event in Los Angeles, lets users store and stream as many as 20,000 songs online and listen to tracks on multiple devices. Google has forged partnerships with 1,000 record labels, including Vivendi SA (VIV)’s Universal Music Group, letting it offer a total of 13 million songs. Apple, meanwhile, opened its iTunes store in 2003.
Google’s new challenge to Apple escalates the rivalry between the two companies, already locked in a fight for smartphone users and mobile-advertising customers. The Internet- search giant also faces budding competition from Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), which has bolstered its music-download and storage service, and Spotify Ltd., whose partnership with Facebook Inc. has buoyed U.S. membership this year.
“They’re coming into this market rather late in the game, where there are large, established players,” said Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in San Jose, California. “You can say it’s a saturated market.”
Google, the biggest Internet-search provider, has expanded into music, television and movies to bolster sales of devices running its Android mobile software. The company, based in Mountain View, California, also will let users share music on its Google+ social network.
Sony, Vivendi, EMI
To supply songs for the new Google Music service, the company reached agreements with Sony Corp. (6758)’s music unit, Universal Music and EMI Group Ltd. Some songs are free, while others cost 99 cents to $1.29.
Warner Music Group hadn’t yet reached an accord with Google because of pricing and piracy concerns, two people familiar with the matter said earlier this week.
Apple first unveiled its iPod music player in 2001, and in 2003 started the iTunes music store, offering songs for 99 cents apiece. The company, which makes its own hardware and the software that runs it, has benefited in the past decade as consumers shifted from CDs to online music services. Apple’s iTunes service works on its own devices, such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad tablet, as well as personal computers from other manufacturers.
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