Google is obviously directly challenging Apple’s iTunes. Although iTunes currently offers over 11 million songs, it requires the installation of free software and the opening of an account to function. If Google is successful in combining its normal ease of search to music retailing, it could take a slice out of Apple’s business.
Google users who put the name of a song into the search engine will get, as the top result, information about the musician and an opportunity to stream the song from one of two services, Lala and MySpace Music. People who click on that link will usually get a pop-up window that allows them to play the full song once, for free, along with a link to buy the song….Entering an album name or band name into Google results in similar free listening opportunities.
The service could totally change how people look for music online. Up until now, when you search for music on Google it just brings up links to Wikipedia, random ad-filled lyrics sites and, in some cases, YouTube videos. But it usually took a few hops across the Web to actually sample a song. Not anymore. (It will be interesting to see, in this new environment, whether the music labels are truly comfortable with allowing all these free streams on Google.)