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In this corner, the reigning world champions of the online music market, iTunes and Amazon. And in the other corner, the challenger, Google Play.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

To play out the boxing metaphor we’d ring a bell but seeing as that’s impossible in an article you’ll just have to use your imagination.

All clumsily analogies aside, there is a battle going on between three companies for your online music dollar. Hitherto, the online music market has been dominated by iTunes and Amazon. Now, there’s a new combatant in the mix, Google Play.

Does Google Play have enough to overtake iTunes and Amazon? That remains to be seen but they definitely have enough to compete.

Consumers buy roughly $20 billion worth of music a year. About three-fourths of that comes in the form of digital music. Apple’s iTunes accounts for two-thirds of the market while Amazon captures around 15 percent. The rest falls to other online music providers including Google Play which has just five percent of the market.

As you can see Google Play has a ways to go. How is it going to catch iTunes and Amazon? Will it rely solely on Google’s ubiquitous stature? Maybe, but Google Play actually offers several things the other two powerhouses don’t.

For one, their online storage and match service is completely free. Amazon and iTunes charge $24.99 for the service. Google Play also offers music files at a superior quality. Their MP3s come in at 320 kbps. That’s better than Amazon’s 256 kbps and iTunes AAC at 256 kbps.

Besides being completely free to use, Google Play can be accessed from any browser and has online storage with offline playback. With iTunes you have to stream your music through the iCloud with software you need to install on your computer. Amazon allows you store ten times more music than iTunes and Google Play but is only available in four countries.

Where Google Play really gets the best of iTunes and Amazon is with social integration. Google Play is fully integrated with Google+ so you can share, play, and even listen to your friend’s music collection. In total, there are 400 million register users on Google+. About a fourth of them are active on a monthly basis.

Another area in which Google Play has the advantage over iTunes and Amazon is the growing sales of smartphones with the Android operating system. More and more people are listening to music on their phones and the Android OS accounts for nearly three-fourths of the market. Even better news for Google Play, those numbers are widening. Meaning, there’s real growth potential for Google Play.

With its unique features, its social integration, and the prevalence of Android devices, Google Play will be a major player in the online music market. Can they knock out iTunes and Amazon? Who knows but it’s clear they’re going to put up one heck of fight.



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