Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? No, Google Music!

Welcome once again to the show that never ends; the battle of corporate giants Google and Apple. Google has launched music services for its Android handset users while Apple has launched a new service, iTunes Match.

It’s a big step for Google, as not having a music purchase service was reckoned to be something of a downside for folks considering what smartphone or tablet to buy. The challenge to the new service is, naturally, from Apple, but Amazon’s recently launched Kindle Fire tablet may also provide some stiff opposition.

Google Music is only available at the moment in the US; it’s still in negotiations with record labels to let it sell songs in other countries. The UK, with it’s high music consumer base and solid music industry foundation, would seem to be a good bet for Google to get organized, but dealing with record companies is not the easiest of occupations and it may take some time before deals are sealed.

The main missing player in the US rollout is Warner Music, which has the likes of Prince and Led Zeppelin on its books and is available to rival services. However, Google can offer exclusive content from the likes of the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Busta Rhymes and Shakira.

Songs are available in MP3 format and are encoded at 320Kbps, with a price range that matches Apples iTunes. You’ll need an android device running version 2.2 or above and, as an added incentive, Google says it’ll offer one free song for downloading every day.

In the other corner is iTunes Match, part of Apple’s iCloud offering:

If you want the benefits of iTunes in the Cloud for music you haven’t purchased from iTunes, iTunes Match is the perfect solution. It’s built right into the iTunes app on your Mac or PC and the Music app on your iOS devices. And it lets you store your entire collection, including music you’ve imported from CDs or purchased somewhere other than iTunes. For just $24.99 a year.2

Here’s how it works: iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to iCloud. Since there are more than 20 million songs in the iTunes Store, most of your music is probably already in iCloud. All you have to upload is what iTunes can’t match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream and store it on any of your devices. Even better, all the music iTunes matches plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.

Time will tell how this all pans out, but expect some fierce marketing in the run up to the festive season.

UPDATE: Sound+Vision mag note that it will be difficult for Google to break into what has essentially been Apple’s market for many years.

In the end, consumer habits are the hardest thing to break, and Google’s going to need more than full label support and Android integration to convince people to start turning to them for all their music needs. Above all else, Google needs credibility in digital music, and that’s the one thing it can’t simply buy or engineer.

iTunes Match vs. Google Music: Which One Should You Choose?

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