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Mobile Wars: Pandora's Got Frenemies

Pandora's CEO remains upbeat about competition in the mobile-music space despite the fact that tech titans like Apple, Google and Microsoft are moving in.

Source: Pandora

Pandora's stock moved marginally higher after it announced new-and-improved mobile apps on Monday. But the stock is down over 45 percent for the year, falling dramatically last week on news about Apple moving closer to launching a free ad-supported streaming service.

(Read More: Apple Gave Pandora Life, Could Take It Away.)

Meanwhile, Microsoft just launched Xbox Live free streaming option.

(Read More: Microsoft Jumps Into Music With the Xbox.)

So how IS Pandora dealing with an increasingly crowded space?

When Pandora launched, its rivals were AOL and Microsoft, but now they're looking at a slightly different assortment of players, including ClearChannel's Iheartradio, plus Spotify and MOG, CEO Joe Kennedy said in an interview with CNBC. Despite all this competition "today we have the largest share of Internet-radio listening we've ever had and the largest share of total radio listening we ever had," he said.

Kennedy said he's not intimidated by the power Apple has in introducing its new service, despite its massive scale of 400 million registered users. "We just surpassed 175 million registered users just in the US," he said.

(Read More: Pandora: Buy or Sell on Apple Dip? )

The new iOS and Android apps are a key part of Kennedy's strategy as more users shift to mobile devices. He says the new apps bring "a full deep website into the mobile environment," with more information and more lyrics. The second big change: Pandora is now more social, making it easier to share songs and playlists.

Are Facebook and Google's push to grow their mobile ad revenue going to eat into Pandora's mobile ad pie? Kennedy insists they won't, saying that Pandora's mobile ad options are differentiated because of their integration into a music stream. Kennedy discussed his relationship with Apple, Google, Microsoft — all of which are working on their alternatives to his service — saying "they're great partners, and it's been a win-win for both parties."

Microsoft may feature Pandora on its new mobile phone, but it's also offering an alternative. The companies behind the devices want to make sure people can access their Pandora stations, but they're also offering other ways to listen to music for free, within their own ecosystems.

That sounds an awful lot like frenemies!

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin
@JBoorstin

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.