Google Hones Music Search, Leaving Apple Out
Google on Wednesday announced its much-anticipated new music search, which will allow users to quickly find songs, sample them and buy them. The big surprise is who is NOT featured: Apple's iTunes. A host of speculation last week anticipated Google would feature Apple's iTunes store and Amazon's MP3 download service. But in fact the companies Google is putting in the spotlight are MySpace and its recently acquired iLike music recommendation service and independent Lala.com.
Google says two of its top ten search queries are music related, so it's trying to help users connect with the music they're looking for faster than ever. Type in lyrics or the name of a song or band and MySpace's iLike and Lala.com will provide audio samples directly on the search results page as well as links to buy full songs on their sites. (As of last week MySpace announced it will allow users to buy songs through iTunes as well as Amazon.com .)
Music discovery is another big element of Google's new search, aiming to help users find the songs they're looking for and other songs they might like. The search giant is also teaming with Real Networks Rhapsody subscription service as well as music discovery services Pandora and iMeme, to provide links to songs related to queries.
Who wins? Google should drive more search traffic, generating more opportunities for search ads. News Corp's MySpace, which is trying to establish itself as a leader in the music space also gets a great opportunity to access the massive number of eyeballs Google could drive its way. And LaLa, Rhapsody, Pandora and iMeme all get more potential users.
The fact that Apple's iTunes, which dominates digital music sales, isn't featured front and center is notable. For one thing iTunes isn't a Web site, it's an application that needs to be downloaded to your desktop, so logistically, including it in this kind of model would be tough. Google told me that if they could link to an iTunes Web page where users could easily listen to or buy a song without downloading anything, they'd be open to it. The question is whether all this new traffic to sites like Rhapsody and Pandora will take a bite out of Apple's market share.
But the company that could suffer the most from Google's new introduction is Microsoft's Bing . As the flashy new search service gains market share, Google's new music search could be exactly the kind of function to keep even the most fickle consumers loyal to Google.
Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com