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After what seems like years of rumors and speculation, Google finally launched a digital music service yesterday.
Dubbed Google Music, the service can be accessed through a mobile app and the Android Market website. Through deals with EMI, Universal, Sony and a multitude of indie labels, Google says that it's today offering upwards of 8m songs, with millions more coming soon.
While at first glance, Google Music looks like your standard digital music service, it's hoping that it has the features to compete. For starters, all music purchases are added to a cloud-based locker at no additional cost for easy access across multiple devices.
For those interested in discovering the next big acts, Google allows indie artists to sell their music through what it's calling an artist hub. And for those more inclined to listen to the already mainstream, Google's record label deals have given the search giant the ability to distribute some content, including six Rolling Stones concerts, exclusively.
Despite Google's best efforts, its music venture has plenty of sceptics and critics. Which isn't exactly surprising. Apple thoroughly dominates this market, and it has for years. If the world's most successful online retailer, Amazon, has failed to put much of a dent in Apple's iTunes armor with its Amazon MP3 store, why should anyone believe Google can fare better?
It's a reasonable question to ask, but even if some scepticism is deserved, there's reason to believe Google has as decent a shot as anybody at building a music service a significant number of consumers use and enjoy.
The presence of YouTube and Android in Google's back pocket creates some interesting possibilities, and already the company has inked a deal with T-Mobile that allows its customers to bill their Google Music purchases to their mobile accounts.
Google has also integrated Music with Google+, allowing the social network's users to share full versions of songs with their friends -- for free no less.
Will it be enough? Not if the measure of Google Music's success is how much market share it takes or doesn't take from iTunes. But that's not what it appears to be aiming for at this point.
As TechCrunch's Devin Coldwey notes, Google Music is "a simple, familiar service with a nice little bit of bait to draw in the crowds." That's exactly what Google needed to build, and the fact that it did is probably not an accident.