Google Takes a Swipe at Pandora and Apple, Launches Internet Music Service

Music Key
Source: Thinkstock
In one of the worst-kept secrets around, Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced the launch of its streaming music service, Google Play Music All Access, at its I/O developers’ conference. The not-so-catchily-named service will cost $9.99 a month, although users who sign up before June 30th will pay $7.99.

The Google Play Music combines some of the features of Internet radio offered Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P), although Pandora is advertising supported, and Spotify, a subscription service that claims more than 6 million subscribers. Google allows subscribers to upload 20,000 songs at no charge, whether purchased from Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) or another source, and to play them back on a PC, tablet, or smartphone.

The odd thing about Google’s streaming music plan is that it really doesn’t make a compelling case for why to subscribe. About the only advantage it might offer to get users to switch from Spotify is that it’s seach function is very likely to be better. Whether its radio feature is superior to Pandora’s remains to be seen, but that’s hardly worth $7.99 or $9.99 a month.

Apple’s iTunes store and Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) MP3 store, of course, follow a pay-per-download model and the only question is when both of these giants decide to jump into the streaming music subscription business. Apple has made some noises about doing this, but no official acknowledgement so far. Apple, Amazon, and Google all offer cloud-based storage for a subscriber’s personal collection.

Far more interesting than this me-too music program would be some integration of YouTube, the single most dominant music streaming program in the world, with Google’s Android ecosystem. Such an integrated system could blow all Google’s competition out of the water. Today’s effort has got to be just a placeholder for something much different and much better.

Note to Google: The name Google Play Music All Access should be the first thing to get the heave-ho.