Google unveiled a new online music service similar to a service recently launched by Amazon.com -- a move that escalates the battle to create the next generation of Internet businesses for storing and listening to music.
Google, like Amazon, has not sought licenses from the four major recorded-music companies, according to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal late Monday, instead opting to create a system that functions much like a remote hard drive.
Users of the new free service Music Beta by Google will be able to listen to songs they have uploaded to the service in a so-called streaming mode but won't be able to download the files themselves. That limit appears to be a bid by Google to hinder the service from being used to spread pirated music.
"With the new service, your music and playlists are automatically kept in sync," explained Hugo Barra, Product Management Director for the company, in a post to the Google Blog. "So if you create a new playlist on your phone, it’s instantly available on your computer or tablet."
"You can even listen to music when you’re offline: We automatically store your most recently played music on your Android device and you can choose to make specific albums or playlists available when you’re not connected," he wrote.
Google announced the service Tuesday at its annual Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco. Initially, the service is to operate in a testing mode, available only by invitation and not to the public at large.
The new service will allow a user to upload up to 20,000 songs on to the service and the demo showed a range of music player features for managing songs in a user's library.
Google has long been developing a music service to run on its Android mobile operating system -- competition for iTunes, the anchor of Apple's content services. The Google music service comes alongside a licensed movie service which allows YouTube and Android device users to rent movies from $1.99, Reuters reported.
Amazon's service caused a furor in the music industry because it had not reached any licensing agreements with major music companies: Vivendi's Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Group.
The online retailer defended itself vigorously against suggestions by some music sources that Cloud Drive service infringes copyright.
Since the launch, Amazon executives have met with label owners to negotiate for a more advanced music service.
Several music industry sources privately expressed concern at Google's music plans but said they hoped the search giant would continue negotiating for a service with more features than storage and personal streaming of the songs.
Reuters sources said last month Apple was set to beat Google to launching a licensed online music locker. Apple is at the final stages of reaching a deal with at least one label and others are also close.
News wires contributed to this report.