Google is eight years behind Apple’s iTunes music store, the industry leader in downloadable music right now. It’s also at a significant disadvantage against Amazon, another contender in online downloads. Google has courted a lot of exclusive and free stuff in order to break into the highly saturated market with its own music store. Those things will help – as will the “available to anyone for free” nature of the Google Music streaming service. Both Amazon and Apple have already set prices of about $25 per year for their streaming services.

Up against a strong rival

But can Google really beat back iTunes, or even Amazon? It might not be likely that the service will eclipse either anytime soon, but a few of Google Music’s features seem like they could help it become a force in the industry. The free offerings of the service are a big boon, of course, but so is the fact that Google Music seems poised to work on just about any device, including a host of mobile ones. Customers who buy from Apple are saddled with iTunes, which isn’t available on Android devices. Meanwhile, as Google reports, there have been 200 million Android devices activated worldwide. That’s a lot of customers who might like Apple’s software but already have different hardware, either for tablets or smartphones, who can’t access Apple’s system.

Meanwhile, Google offers a widely free alternative, with the benefits of the ability to share music and a lot of options for additional music discovery. It’s device-agnostic, offering a whole lot of versatility through both apps and the web that both Apple and Amazon can’t match.

Will that be enough to cancel out a foundation built over the last eight years, or an online retail empire? If anybody can do it, it’s Google, but only time will tell if Google Music can become the new iTunes, or if it’ll end up being the new Google Wave.