After cautiously watching Apple to see how this whole "downloading music" thing panned out, Google will unveil its online music store this afternoon. Will it become your new favorite place to grab songs? Maybe! Here's all the (rumored) dirt.
What songs are available?
Not all of them. Unlike iTunes, which has deals signed with all major labels, Google has reportedly only inked agreements with Sony, Universal, and EMI. That leaves out Warner, which is a big, big hole: Cher, Cee Lo, Diddy, Gucci Mane, Green Day, The Prodigy, Van Halen—the list is long. Lots of huge acts, dead and alive, are part of Warner's harem, and if the rumors are true, you won't have any access to them (yet) via Google Music. Which is a bummer.
How much will songs cost?
Bloomberg is reporting rumored pricing between $0.99 and $1.29 per track—which would place Google squarely in Apple and Amazon territory. No surprise here—major labels aren't about to change the pricing schemes they've been battling over for almost a decade.
Oh, hey, songs might also be free! Or one song every day will, claims Phandroid, similar to Apple's free song giveaways, which are usually crap.
How will I use it?
There's also a built-in, iTunes-style player. Expect that to stay, although boosted functionality and/or a total redesign of the current iteration aren't out of the question. After all, this thing has been in beta for a while.
We also might see an interesting twist! Billboard is reporting Google Music might sport some neat sharing options, tied in (of course) with Google+. Whether this means simply sharing your playlist, a la Spotify and Facebook, or actually letting friends listen to songs you've purchased, is unknown. CNET says it's the latter, though: an option to give your friends a one-play taste of anything you buy.
How is it different?
Here's where we have to speculate. If Google Music wants to stand out as a third great place to buy dollar songs online (after Apple and Amazon), they'll have to push what their competitors don't: social. Ping is a complete joke (Or is it even that? People usually talk about jokes), and Amazon has zero social action.
Google, though, has Google+. The service is mighty lackluster at the moment, outside of fanboys and the niche geek community, but turning it into a music distribution network could be clutch. Imagine an easy way to download that newest Waka Flocka Flame (oh, wait, no, he's signed with Warner) and then easily drop it into your friend's (or friends'!) face via Plus, giving you all an instant medium to talk about how great or horrible it is. Google+ is about as thrilling as a nursery home staring contest right now, so adding a social music aspect could light a spark. The existing cloud storage would also keep Google on pace with iTunes Match and Amazon's MP3 Cloud Drive. With Google, odds are you'll be able to buy a song, download it to your device, and also stream it from anywhere in the world. No word if the existing 20,000 song cloud cap will stay in place, however.
But at the very least, Google Music will mean there are three viable online music options, instead of two. And competition is always a good thing.