Monday is Apple’s yearly WWDC show, and with news that Sony Music has inked a deal with the company behind iTunes, one of the big reveals is expected to be a new streaming music service. Dubbed iRadio by media and fans, the platform, which has been the topic of rumor and speculation for quite some time now, will enter a market full of competition, including Pandora, Spotify, and Google’s recently unveiled Play Music All Access.
It’s a rare instance that Google actually beat Apple to the punch with a media service. Apple broke new ground with iTunes and is largely responsible for the digital music revolution of the 2000s, turning MP3s into a profitable enterprise after the rampant piracy of the early broadband age. It was a major boon for Apple and the recording industry. You could argue that without iTunes, the iPhone might never have existed.
But Apple has been dragging its feet when it comes to streaming music, the latest craze in digital distribution, leaving the door wide open for Google to capitalize with the release of Play Music All Access. Google’s subscription model provides access to the large library of music found in the Play Store, allowing on demand playback of any song. Apple will reportedly introduce a service more like that of Pandora, an ad-supported radio stream that will tie into the iTunes store and allow users to easily purchase new tracks.
While Google got a head start and depends on a slightly different sales model, iRadio is expected to be an instant hit. Most major labels have backed the venture enthusiastically with consideration to the positive impact iTunes has had on digital music. iRadio also comes with the backing of the Apple brand and will be tied to devices and software already easily available to millions of users.
Apple has established itself as a media company as much as a software and hardware provider. Google, by comparison, is still an infant when it comes to digital sales and distribution of music. Despite a Google service that in many ways could offer more control over the listening experience by comparison, Apple — although a bit late to the party — will offer heavy competition.
For Google to make inroads, they will need to distribute Play Music on a wider scale. With plans for an iOS app, it’s a first step. Google isn’t afraid to go after Apple on their own turf with Apps like Maps, Gmail, and Hangouts. Play Music All Access vs. iRadio could be one of their biggest battles yet.