Google’s Rumored Music Store and Why It Just Might Work

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Rumors of a Google-backed music service aren’t necessarily new by any means but CNET has recently re-fanned the flames by citing “multiple music industry sources” as saying “Google could launch a music service that offers song downloads and streaming music as early as this fall.”

The search engine giant has several things going for it when it comes to trying its hand at a music service. For starters—and perhaps most importantly–it’s already got several million user accounts in place, so trying to convince people to sign up for a new service won’t be much of an issue.

Google’s also made no qualms about its development efforts being “mobile first” as far as priorities go. With Android phones starting to really take hold, it’ll have plenty of connected devices for streaming and downloading music through an integrated software player on Android handsets. And let’s not forget about Chrome OS that’s due out this fall as well. Seems like an opportune time to announce a cloud-based streaming music service, too.

Google has plenty of experience in the cloud, so the idea of an iTunes-like music store that kept all of your music online for easy streaming isn’t too hard to imagine. You’d think there would have to be some sort of downloading option as well, so perhaps Google would offer different pricing schemes based on whether you just wanted to stream your music to connected devices or download it for good.

So a lot of potential customers, a solid mobile market in place, and the infrastructure to store everything online are all big advantages for Google, but what are some of the obstacles it might have to overcome?

I’d venture to say that out of all of Google’s products—perhaps with the exception of Gmail—the user interface for Google Music absolutely has to be done right the first time and it should be fully baked before it’s released. If Google wants to seriously compete with iTunes, it can’t dump out a directory of links, slap a beta tag on it, and incrementally update it along the way. It needs to give people a reason to leave iTunes and never look back. Forget us early adopters and go directly after the masses with this one.

Google also needs to make it easy for people to transfer their music libraries into Google music. I’m not quite as worried about this one because I think the company’s got the chops to make it relatively seamless, but it’s still important that it’s not overlooked. Again, you want people to leave iTunes, not start a second music collection on Google music. People want all their music in one place just like they want all their e-mail in one place. People switched to Gmail because it had a better interface and offered better features than other free e-mail services like Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail.

Finally, I realize not everyone uses iTunes but I’m using it as an example since it’s arguably the most popular music service around. The thing iTunes has going for it, as well, is that it doesn’t just sell music anymore. Perhaps not right away, but very soon, Google will need to expand beyond music and start offering TV shows and movies too. It’s got the infrastructure in place since it already owns YouTube and has been experimenting with paid content on that platform. If people had the option to buy TV shows and rent or buy movies on Android handsets and Google TV as easily as it can be done on the iPhone, Google could leverage its paid YouTube content much more efficiently.

Thoughts? Would you switch to Google Music from whichever platform you’re using now? If not, what would it take to get you to switch?

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