Rumor says Google rolling out music service with Honeycomb

by Phil Hornshaw

Google (GOOG) has its own subscription service, it’s about to roll out in-app purchases and it has a web-based app store for Android: now it just needs a music sale service and its mirroring of Apple (AAPL) will be complete.

And rumor has it, it’s working on such a service, which will roll out with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the version of the operating system specifically geared toward tablet devices. At least, that’s according to Mashable.

The Guardian caught the slip as Motorla Mobility (MMI) CEO Sanjay Jha accidentally revealed Google’s plans for a music service as he was touting his company’s Xoom tablet. Here’s Jha’s quote:

“If you look at Google Mobile services [via Android] today, there’s a video service, there’s a music service — that is, there will be a music service.”

Whoops. Although, this isn’t the first we’ve heard about a Google music service. Honeycomb has a Google Music app included with it, and Google has even showed off an unnamed online music service back in May. There have been other slip-ups, too, but the overall indication is that Android is about to get its own version of iTunes.

Motorola’s powerful Xoom tablet is going to be among the first Honeycomb-enabled machines, and Jha said Google Music (if that’s what it’s called) “will rely on Honeycomb,” according to The Guardian.

Like the rest of Google’s online service efforts, Google Music will likely be cloud-based, thereby allowing users to stream or download tracks from wherever they are, provided they have access to the Internet. It’s the same system that the online version of the Android Market uses to pass apps and content to Android users’ devices, whatever they may be. Mashable says the Google Music service would feature some kind of digital locker, in which your purchases are stored in the cloud to access whenever.

But it sounds like Google has a long way to go as far as a music service is concerned, and not on a technological front. Record companies are reluctant to jump in with Google on the whole “digital locker” idea, according to the New York Post, and while Google is currently trying to get licensing issues cleared up, it could be a major hurdle going forward. It might stop the entire music service, but it could very well kill or delay the cloud-based component.

Still, the assumption is that tablets especially, and Android devices in general, are going to have access to their own music store in the coming future -- probably not too long after Honeycomb starts to become widely available, beginning with the Xoom launch later this month.

Google’s plan of rapidly diminishing the number of key differences between iOS and Android seems to advancing rather well, though. Provided the company can convince the music industry to go with its flow, Google will be removing another major selling point from the iOS line-up, and further levelling the field.