Google is preparing to launch a music download and streaming service, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal.
The paper cited unnamed sources in claiming that Google is working with music industry groups in preparation for a music download service later this year. A streaming subscription service is also reportedly set to launch some time next year.
The move would pitch Google against Apple's highly successful iTunes music store, which has staked its claim as the top music retailer in the world, serving more than 10 billion song downloads in its seven-year history.
The launch of a music service would also expand the areas in which Apple and Google find themselves in direct competition.
The companies began a public split last year when the clash between Google's Android platform and Apple's iPhone forced Google chief executive Eric Schmidt to resign from Apple's board of directors, and reportedly ended an informal agreement between the two companies not to pursue the other side's active employees.
Competition was only heightened when Apple moved into the mobile advertising space and began to take on Google's AdMob subsidiary.
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