The New York Times reports that Google is preparing to release a new music store that will work in conjunction with its recently launched Google Music Beta cloud service and will compete head to head with iTunes and Amazon’s music store. Google launched its Music Beta service as an unlicensed storage “locker” system after negotiations with license holders broke down over piracy concerns. Google had hoped to be able to allow users to upload their music via a central database, effectively finding matches across other users’ libraries and preventing users from having to wait for individual uploads unless their files were completely new to the system, but without special licenses from labels, that plan fell to the wayside.
Google is presumably promising a more rigorous file vetting system for its cloud service to prevent piracy in a bid to get labels on board with the music store. Conversely, Apple already has the leading music store and is prepping for the release of its own cloud service, iTunes Match. Google is probably regretting publicly deriding labels for not getting on board with its original cloud service approach now that they’re trying to get deals in place for their store before the iTunes Match service rolls out, possibly by the end of this month. Because of the license agreements in place between labels and Apple to sell music, they already have the special licensing agreements needed to allow for the type of cloud service Google originally envisioned for itself.
What does this all mean for users? Well, if you’ve only bought music from the safe and sanitized environs of the iTunes music store, you’ll probably still stick with the Apple services, but if you collect music from a broad range of places (free downloads from the internet, directly from small labels, by converting LPs and cassettes to a digital format, etc.) a service that values its users privacy and doesn’t judge them on the source of their content (after making them agree that none of it was illegally acquired, of course) is still probably the best way to go, regardless of how that makes the labels feel or how long it takes to get it all up in the cloud. If Google is successful in striking a deal with license holders to sell music, it may ultimately and regrettably water down the openness of their cloud service. To the Cloud Drive!
• Google Music: http://music.google.com