John Sciulli/Getty Images for T-Mobile8:26 p.m. | Updated Looking to extend its reach as a hub for entertainment and social networking, Google introduced a set of music features on Wednesday, including a download store to compete with iTunes.
The service, Google Music, will sell individual tracks and full albums, letting customers store the songs on servers, on so-called cloud accounts. And through an integration with Google’s nascent social network, Google+, the company will also let customers share music by offering friends one free listen to any bought track.
Google Music puts the company in direct competition with Apple, Amazon and Facebook. Many analysts saw the move as part of an escalating war among those companies to develop consumer environments.
“They’ve got to make their ecosystem appeal to consumers in a way that Amazon and Apple have,” said Michael Gartenberg, a media analyst with Gartner. “Personal cloud services are what’s going to drive the next wave of consumer adoption. So Google has to be playing here. But because they’re so late they have to be playing here in a unique way.”
Google will sell music through the Android Market, the marketplace where users of its mobile phone system buy apps, videos and e-books. The new service is an expansion of Music Beta, which the company introduced in May, and will store customers’ songs in remote servers and allow users to listen to them on any device or computer.
Google Music will have 13 million songs for sale, the company said. But while music from three of the four major record companies and many independents will be included, Google has so far been unable to reach a licensing agreement with the Warner Music Group. Warner, the third-largest major label, has artists including Green Day, Neil Young and Led Zeppelin.
The music service is also, to large degree, a way to enhance the company’s mobile offerings to compete with Apple’s iPhone.
Google’s announcement, held at a Los Angeles art studio and shown on YouTube, came two days after Apple opened its iTunes Match service, which for $25 a year lets users back up music in the cloud through a more efficient system than Google offers. But in the presentation, Jamie Rosenberg, a Google executive, noted that its cloud backup was free.
“Other cloud music services think you have to pay to listen to music you already own,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “We don’t.”
Amazon began selling its Kindle Fire tablet this week, which will be able to play music, video and other media. And in September, Facebook unveiled new features with music streaming services like Spotify and MOG that let users of those services share the music they are listening to.
Google’s relations with the major record companies have often been strained, with the labels accusing Google of not doing enough to curtail piracy. When Google introduced its limited Music Beta service in May, the company’s executives complained publicly that some of the labels would not agree to special licenses that would have allowed Google to offer more extensive features.
Yet Google’s reach makes it a powerful partner for music companies, according to Rob Wells, president of the Universal Music Group’s global digital business.
“We expect this to be a rich new revenue stream for our artists,” Mr. Wells said at the event. “Any new legitimate place to consume music is a fantastic antipiracy tool.”
Among the other features included in the announcement were a set of resources for independent artists, who for $25 can set up Web pages and offer their own music at prices of their choosing. To promote the new service, the company is also offering a number of free songs by the Rolling Stones, the Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay and the rapper Busta Rhymes.