How Google Could Bring iTunes To Its Knees

According to multiple sources, including Android boss Andy Rubin, Google's full-blown, socially integrated music store is very close to launch. Mobiledia reports that users will be able to share songs with members of their Google+ circles, who will then be able to listen once for free before deciding whether or not they want to purchase.

Google Music will likely be an extension of the cloud-based music storage service Music Beta, which Google launched five months ago to mixed reviews.

The Music Beta site, currently accessible by invitation only, has been criticized for being slow, difficult to use, and for looking "thrown together." It has also been the main reason that several major labels refuse to be connected with Google's potentially grand plans for a larger Google Music service.

While record companies would like nothing more than an alternative to iTunes, Google has only acquired a signed license agreement from one of the four major record labels: EMI.

While Universal is also tentatively on board, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Sony Music Entertainment or Warner Music Group are unlikely to join. "Sony execs [...] worry that the online locker could appear to be a tacit endorsement of piracy, because it would work equally for pirated songs and purchased ones," reports the Journal. Apple charges $25 a year for its iCloud storage service, announced in June.

However, sources who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, say that Google plans to launch the music store with or without the participation of Warner and Sony. Mobiledia writes that this is a risky move, because if users can't find the songs they're looking for, they are likely to go elsewhere for music.

In April, All Things Digital reported that after spending a year working on a music store, Google's talks with the record labels were "broken." In the same article, ATD speculated that Google might follow in Amazon's footsteps and launch a cloud-based music storage system without permission from the labels. Which is what Google did indeed end up doing in May.

But if the performance of Amazon's service is any indication, Google Music will certainly have its work cut out for it. According to the L.A. Times, Amazon's music store only commands 10 percent of the digital music download market whereas Apple has 70 percent. In April, the online retailer, whose songs were already cheaper than Apple's, lowered prices even further in an effort to unseat the music behemoth. However, according to a digital music analyst consulted by the the L.A. Times, it didn't work.