Late last year, Google finally jumped into the digital music market by launching its long-awaited Google Music service.

Despite skepticism and criticism, the search giant clearly had high hopes for its music service, which competes with Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s MP3 store. Thus far, however, the skeptics and critics appear to be right.

According to CNet’s Greg Sandoval, Google Music isn’t living up to expectations and the company has informed its record label partners that the service isn’t taking off as quickly as it anticipated.

Sandoval’s sources, however, say that Google and its partners aren’t worrying too much — yet. Despite the fact that Google already has a captive audience of some 200m through its Android operating system, Google believes that its best opportunities to spur adoption of Google Music through Android users will come once the company’s homegrown hardware strategy is in play. That hardware strategy includes plans for a wireless entertainment system as revealed by The Wall Street Journal last week.

While there’s little doubt that hardware has a key role to play in the adoption of a music service — just look at the relationship between the iPod and iTunes — it remains to be seen whether Google Music is too little, too late. As Sandoval observes, Google Music is trying to gain traction at a time when the digital music space has seen attention shift “away from downloads and onto subscription services.” That shift may not be productive, as the economics of streaming subscription services are still in question, but it does further complicate matters for Google Music at the present time.

The good news for Google is that it can afford to take its time with Google Music. Chrome didn’t take off overnight, many, myself included, were skeptical about its prospects. But with patience and a powerful marketing effort, Google has proven that it does have the ability to make new products work if it really wants in on a market.