When I watched Google launch Google Buzz in a Webcast last February, I confess I did so with mixed feelings.
It was good to see Google do something more serviceable in the social Web, even if it did make Gmail an open social graph and breach privacy etiquette.
But it also felt like a me, too, to compete with Facebook and Twitter, the social kings of shared content for the Internet age.
Similarly, when I read in the Wall Street Journal (paywall warning) that Google is building an online music store and a music subscription service, I cringed and experienced some of the same queasiness. The Journal noted:
"Google is preparing to roll out a music download service tied to its search engine later this year, followed by an online subscription service in 2011, according to people familiar with the Internet giant's discussions with the music industry."
Why would Google do this? Clearly, it feels it needs a music service for its Android smartphones to counter Apple's iTunes and iPhones. It's not unlike how Apple decided it needed a mobile ad platform and bought and built one.
No one knows if Google has deals in place with record labels. The most concrete evidence we have to go on to corroborate the Journal's story includes Google's recent revelation at Google I/O that it purchased Simplify Media to let users take music they own on their desktop that isn't copy-protected and stream it to an Android phone.
Before that, we watched Google launch Google Discover Music in Los Angeles last October.
Getting into social is one thing, but penetrating a digital music market well-trodden by Napster, LaLa, Apple and others is a whole other issue.
Apple launched iTunes in January 2001 and blazed a trail as the provider of content for the modern Walkman.
And now Google wants to play there, according to the Journal. That's bolder than Apple launching iAd against Google's mobile ad offerings.
While Apple has a virtual monopoly on digital music, no one has a monopoly on display ads served on a mobile phone. Apple's move to offer an ad platform for its iPhone was smart. Apple's move to lock out AdMob and Google was smarter.
Google's decision to create a Web music store and later a music download service seems like a long shot for a company I fear is spreading itself too thin.
Need more evidence that Apple has set Google up for the kill in music? Okay, here it is.
When Google launched its Discover Music search service last fall, it did so with partners MySpace, Lala and music labels EMI, Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music Group.
Good idea. Makes perfect sense that Google would let users search through millions of tunes. But then Apple beat Google for LaLa and shut it down, presumably to build its own music cloud service.
Adding insult to injury, RJ Pittman, the director of product management at Google who led Discover Music and helped Google broker with the music companies, left Google to work on "cool stuff at Apple."
Could that "cool stuff" include the cloud music service we're all expecting from Apple? I think so.
The only reason Google has for offering this is to make sure it has its own download and cloud service for Android so it isn't subject to the whims of iTunes and whatever cloud service Apple builds.
Google clearly doesn't like the way Apple runs its consumer Web services and is determined to go its own way. That and it wants to control the Web services it offers so it can place its own ads on them, or at least make money off of music.
Some think Google should do this to jumpstart Google Checkout. I disagree.
This Google music service rumor and speculation leaves a sour taste in my mouth. There are some parts of the company that are doing cool stuff. Google Voice, Google Wave, anyone?
Then there are me, too services like Google Buzz and this supposed music service that make me nervous Google is wasting its time and money. Not that it doesn't have $25 billion or so in the bank to burn.
I believe Apple has the music market locked up, and Google should just accept it. It doesn't need to play everywhere online.
This is a case where the Google Creep approach isn't serving it well.