Google Music: It should be the record player, not the record store

Google couldn't leave well enough alone and had to jump into the music store business to accompany the music player.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

I should have been excited when I heard about Google's entry into the music-selling business last week. I've been a user - and a fan - of Google's Music Cloud Beta since its early release and, as an Android guy, I've been even happier with the mobile app's potential to be an iPod replacement. Now with a music store, the offering is complete - a real legitimate serving that can finally go head-to-head with Apple's iTunes, right?


Truth be told, I didn't get excited about Google's Music Store announcement because I just didn't think that Google needed a music store. I get my online music from a number of different sources already: iTunes, Amazon, my own CD collection and even some tracks that I'd stored on an external drive. And they mostly all playback seamlessly in Google Cloud Music (there are a few restrictions.)

The last thing I really need is another online music store - especially one with limited offerings because it couldn't cut deals with all of the major Hollywood record labels by launch.

Now, I understand why Google has gone both-feet-forward with this Google Music undertaking. The iPod music player is being replaced by the iPhone - and Google wants Android to pick up as much of the iPod replacement market as possible. Services like Spotify and Pandora are disrupting the traditional models not only by offering streaming services but also through their integration with social networks. And, of course, digital music fits nicely next to e-books, mobile apps and movie rentals in the larger Android Marketplace.

Isn't Google a search and advertising company? Hasn't the company already spread itself a little thin - and experienced a few flops - by putting its claws into parts of the business that it really had no business of being in in the first place? (Buzz, anyone?) Did it really need a music store - or couldn't it have been content just being the best music player, with the best cloud offerings, on the Internet.

For now, Google Music Cloud is my music service of choice while I listen to tunes at my desk or on-the-go. My first impressions - which are largely in sync with many of Stephen Vaughn-Nichols' observations - was that Google really has a grasp on how a cloud-based music service should look. Everything from measuring cloud storage by number of songs, instead of gigabytes, to wireless syncing of libraries and playlists of other music services shows that Google "gets" cloud in a way that Apple still doesn't. Sure, the look is still a bit dry and there are a few organization tweaks I would make - but Google Cloud Music I was exactly a fan of the iTunes Match and iCloud models and certainly am not big on paying fees, even if it's only $25 per year.

Google wasn't happy just being the maker of the record player. It wanted to be the record store, too. While I don't think that a decision to cut deals with the labels to sell music was necessarily the best one for the goals and objectives of the company, I don't think it will hurt, either. It just feel like a lot of effort for a "me too" that will likely struggle for some time to gain any ground on a company like Apple, which has been at this much much longer.

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