Back in June, Google was said to be launching a music store possibly by this fall.
Now that it's fall, Google has reportedly been telling labels that its music store, and possibly subscription service (not to be confused with Google Music Beta locker), will launch by the end of 2011.
This would constitute the third in a string of music announcements from Google this year, which conventional wisdom dictated wasn't interested in music - in part because founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page weren't big music fans.
Something has set their feet tapping. With the launch of this Google music store, which should take Google Music out of the "beta" stage, Google will have launched a music service; the Magnifier music blog (from former Rhapsody vice president Tim Quirk); and the Google Music Beta storage locker, which, unlike Apple iCloud, can't mirror music automatically, but uploads each file slowly and manually.
The reason Google Music Beta makes you upload instead of recognizing songs and mirroring them to the cloud: Google probably wouldn't pay the $100 million upfront fee that Apple paid labels and publishers so that you can store up to 5GB of potentially-pirated music in iCloud (or more if you pay more).
If reports of this upcoming Google music store/service are correct, the company will fill in that missing part of the equation soon. At the very least, as with Amazon MP3 and Amazon Cloud Drive, any song you buy from Google will almost certainly transfer instantly into your Google Music cloud.
More interestingly: If Google (which likes music subscriptions, having reportedly failed to buy Rhapsody and Spotify) launches a subscription, it will solve Google's mirroring problem. People will be able to tag music in the Google Music catalog (the big cloud) for inclusion in their personal locker (the small cloud).
A subscription would also mean that Google could add an iCloud-like feature that would mirror pirated/ripped/etc. music into the Google cloud, because in a sense, a mirror is just another way to create a playlist.
On top of all of that, Google also has two stealth music weapons: YouTube, which has more free, on-demand music than anything else in the world, and Google+, which is no Facebook, but which already lets people throw group listening parties - if somewhat awkwardly.
Then, there's Android, whose software development kit (the "SDK" with which people make Android apps) should let developers build apps that incorporate music from the Google Cloud onto Android devices. For instance, apps designed for jogging, DJing, and so-on could access all of that music, the same way third-party Spotify apps can today.
By approaching music on so many fronts, Google, which seemed to ignore music for years, and when it did embrace it, did so halfheartedly, through partners - could stand a chance.
So then, the question is: Why now? Perhaps it's because the most interesting things happening in music today involve API-level communication between Facebook and music services like Spotify on the web as well as app platforms like iOS and Android, as well as curation technologies like blogs and other music publications. With the launch of a music store and/or subscription (and the locker-friendly licensing that comes along with that), Google can have a taste of every pie.
Of course, this isn't just about music, either. If Google can convince people to deploy their music across Android, the Google cloud, and Google+, people will end up using Google for other stuff, too. It wouldn't be the first time that something designed for music formed the template for more general technology.
(Screenshot via YouTube)