Is This Google's Next Dead-End Project?

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CNET's reports that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) has begun testing a streaming music service internally among employees. Called Google Music, it's apparently built for Android as an on-the-go competitor to iTunes.

Is this really a good idea? I have some doubts, mostly because I'm a frequent user of YouTube playlists. One of my favorites is a compilation of tracks from all 4.5 seasons of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.

Go ahead and treat yourself. Composer Bear McCreary's work is as good as anything you'll hear from Hans Zimmer, James Horner, or even the legendary John Williams. And all of it is available on YouTube. Who needs Google Music?

To be fair, Google could realize some benefits from having its own streaming platform. Accessing and managing tunes on an Android handset or tablet would become easier, which is something users clearly want.

The Big G would also gain allies. Warner Music (NYSE: WMG  ) , Sony's label, and EMI would love nothing more than to regain leverage in its negotiations with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) over iTunes fees.

But these are ancillary benefits, at best. Google Music has to be either (a) Pandora plus CBS's (NYSE: CBS  ) on steroids, or (b) incredibly creative in the way it allows users to search for and discover tracks.

One possibility: Have Google Music search the Internet for songs and playlists that match your collection of tracks and listening habits. Users could add intelligence by tagging songs, while bands and labels would add their own metadata.

Think of it as the antithesis to iTunes. Whereas Apple has created the world's largest music store, Google Music would allow users to discover and purchase music wherever it lives -- whether in iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or an emerging artist's blog.

Could that strategy work? What would Google Music look like if you were in charge? Use the comments box below to let us know what you think about The Big G's involvement in the music biz, as well as Apple's iTunes empire and the future of streaming services.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google and has written Apple puts. The Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is hoping to take a day off soon.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 28, 2011, at 1:26 PM, Oldfool103 wrote:

    I love iTunes. It has been the single best tool I have found for expanding my music library--especially classical selections--since the end of the affordable cassette tape. (In Canada, CDs normally run to about $20 each and usually involve an order for anything other than the most common place items, if you can even find a music store to do that.) At $10 an album, it compares quite well with what I used to pay years ago, and is not stealing from the artists. So. really, why do we want to give Sony and Warner a wedge in order to allow them to drive the prices up? You can bet that will not enrich the producers of the music.

    If you think that this will bring the price down, great. While I prefer to own my own discs, if streaming from competing platforms will accomplish re-pricing, I am all for it. Just don't mess up what has turned out to be a pretty good deal for the consumer.

  • Report this Comment On March 28, 2011, at 1:44 PM, marv08 wrote:

    Sure it could work. All these competitors to iTunes do find some users. But as there are so many of them, and most of them mainly attract people unwilling to pay for content, they all go nowhere. The music industry sponsored lala to create competition for Apple, and then Apple bought it... that tells the story.

    Amazon had almost a full year exclusive lead with DRM-free titles from all majors except EMI (which went DRM-free with Apple earlier), they still give away many titles and albums for less... and still they barely make a dent. Why? They fail to create a similar-quality environment (for a majority at least). I voluntarily pay $1-2 more on iTunes for the same album than what Amazon is charging, just to avoid their crappy Web interface. Do I think Google will score better than Amazon? Not at all. They have no taste, they have no support infrastructure (other than a poorly maintained self-service Web site, which no casual user can comprehend) and they mainly cater to people who expect "free" and will always find "free", normally on Google.

  • Report this Comment On March 28, 2011, at 11:12 PM, geoslv wrote:

    Talking about finding playlists and selections to play all over the internet. Look what happened to MySpace's playlist venture. I don't think it's gotten anywhere, in my experience. I had about 70 songs uploaded at imeem, MySpace bought it (no warning, everything disappeared), they said they would transfer our songs to their project. About 2 songs ended up at MySpace, and they are unplayable.

    Finding songs on the internet that are playable from another location is murder. Checking the digital files against samples for copyright is finicky. Asking MySpace's playlist project to find songs for you is practically worthless.

    Imeem had a good system because they let you upload your own copies (mine usually from vinyl) and then checked them for copyright. MySpace has permission from all the labels, but can't do a good digital check of them.

    Good luck to Google anyway, if they want the headache of trying to match "related music"..

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