November 16, 2011, 11:31 AM — Maybe when you're a company with as much money as Google, you figure anything's worth a shot. Driverless car? Why not? Space elevator? Let's give it a try!
But, you know, selling music online isn't exactly a new frontier or untapped market. Apple launched its iTunes online store in 2003, and it's done pretty well, racking up 16 billion customer downloads through early October of this year. Revenue from iTunes is expected to grow to $13 billion in 2013 from slightly more than $4 billion in Apple's fiscal year 2010.
Yet Google has decided to challenge iTunes on its own turf, just as it launched Google+ as a direct challenge to Facebook in the social networking market.
The search giant on Wednesday will unveil its online music store. It's expected to allow customers who purchase songs to store the files remotely and access them from multiple devices, similar to Apple's iCloud service.
So what can Google offer music fans that they can't get from iTunes -- besides allowing (yawn) users to share songs with followers on Google+? Further, what kind of market share does Google aspire to in a sector not only already dominated by Apple, but which also includes Amazon.com, Pandora, Spotify and others?
As Gartner analyst Ray Valdes tells Bloomberg, "They’re coming into this market rather late in the game, where there are large, established players. You can say it’s a saturated market."
You can indeed. And taking on Apple and other established online music providers arguably is a longer shot than Google's move into social networking, where Facebook is dominant. Facebook hasn't been around as long as iTunes and the company isn't nearly as large and formidable as Apple.
Similarly, it's dicey to make a call on a service that hasn't been released yet. But Gartner's Valdes gives it a shot, telling Bloomberg, "I doubt they’ll meet with immediate success. If they fail, it will take a while for that to become evident because they have enough presence to make at least slow progress for some time."
Not exactly "magic quadrant" talk.