Google Music goes live. Should Amazon and Apple be worried?

Google Music, a new MP3 store, was officially launched this week. So what makes Google Music different?

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    Google Music is a go. Here, rapper Busta Rhymes at a Google Music launch event in Los Angeles.
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It has already been dubbed "iTunes for Android." On Wednesday, Google rolled out a platform called Google Music, an online store and music-sharing platform for the millions of Android users worldwide. In a blog post, Google exec Andy Rubin positioned Google Music as a "new" and "innovative" take on the traditional (read: iTunes-esque) digital market. 

"Google Music helps you spend more time listening to your collection and less time managing it," Rubin wrote. "We automatically sync your entire music library – both purchases and uploads – across all your devices so you don't have to worry about cables, file transfers or running out of storage space. We’ll keep your playlists in tact, too, so your 'Chill' playlist is always your 'Chill' playlist, whether you’re on your laptop, tablet or phone."

Google says Music will launch with 13 million tracks from a handful of labels, including majors such as EMI, Sony, and Universal, and an estimated 1,000 indie houses. There's some exclusive content, too, from an unreleased Rolling Stones record to some original content from Coldplay and the rapper Busta Rhymes. Most songs cost about a buck; albums range from $8 to $12. 

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"Even if you’re not an Android addict... it’s worth a try," reads the Washington Post review of Google Music. "It’s free – so there’s almost no barrier to entry – and at the very least, it could be useful as yet another backup for your music library. Google hasn’t done anything revolutionary here, but, as it did with e-mail, the company has pulled together some basic features into a free and easy-to-use service."

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is sold on the new Google service. Over at Gizmodo, Mat Honan calls Google Music an "island," and "a self-contained unit. You have to manage it yourself. It won't grow unless you manually add tracks to it. There's no serendipitous discovery. No social component. No Pandora or Last.fm-style suggestions that drop tracks you've never heard before, but already love. Google isn't offering you a vast, new catalog."

Instead, Honan adds, "it's just offering to hold your [music] for you." 

Still, even if Google Music doesn't quite manage to match iTunes, it's likely to raise the eyebrows of at least one competitor: Amazon.

In recent months, Amazon has heavily amped up its music offerings, often undercutting Apple on price, notes Scott Martin of USA Today. "With this very loud and public entry into the music business, we believe Google has stoked the fire of competition versus Amazon," Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy said in a note to clients, according to USA Today. 

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