Sometimes you hear a rumor that has very little detail, but the very idea of it is momentous enough to take seriously. This could be one of those cases: Google may be getting into the music business.
Very little is known at the moment, with most reports tracing back to a post on TechCrunch. That story states that:
- Google has been trying to tie up “major” record labels to licensing deals.
- The name Google Audio has been mentioned by sources.
- The service will be available in the US, with other countries unconfirmed.
- It’s not clear if it will be a streaming or download service.
Looking at the rumor logically, the main reasons Google would get into a new market are that it believes it can use its brand name to pick up a mass audience, or that it believes it can apply a better technology to existing practices.
With that in mind, if I was forced to place a bet, I’d put my money on Google adding audio to its existing set of specific search types (such as Image, News and Video). That would likely mean a search tool similar to Google Video (or even YouTube) where site visitors can search for songs and listen to streaming recordings, presumably with Google splitting the accompanying ad revenue with the license holders.
What would be more interesting is if Google went a step further and sold the songs, and the relevant albums, as downloads. At the moment there must be many iTunes customers who don’t use other paid download sites because they are unfamiliar with the firm behind the site, or they believe (rightly or wrongly) that using them is more hassle than the extremely intuitive Apple store. Like Google services or not, you have to acknowledge that most people see them as well-known, reliable and easy to use.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the rumor is that it comes on the same day as reports that the company is planning to launch its own Android phone, specifically branded as a “Google Phone”. That would have some limitations as a business model as the handset would apparently be unlocked and thus wouldn’t get the subsidy from a network needed to compete purely on price.
However, at the risk of making too many assumptions, when you take the Google brand name, a device running a customizable operating system, and a reported deal with the music labels, it’s possible that you really do have a credible alternative to the iPhone.