Google is launching a free music service in a move that pits it against Apple, Pandora and Spotify.
The company today unveiled a free, ad-supported version of its service, Google Play Music. U.S.-based customers will be able to stream music based on genres, their mood, decades and even activities like working out, chilling and studying - all for free.
"Google Play Music ... is giving you a new way to find just the right music and giving artists another way to earn revenue," wrote Elias Roman, a Google product manager, in a blog post. "Our team of music experts, including the folks who created Songza, crafts each station song by song so you don't have to."
The service is available today on the Web, and Google said it's rolling out apps this week for Android and iOS.
This is a direct attack on the likes of Pandora and Spotify, which both offer streaming music services.
It's also an attack on Apple, which is preparing to launch its own subscription music service next week.
Google has had its own subscription service, charging U.S. users $9.99 per month.
Google, which reportedly tried to buy Spotify late in 2013, is giving users a chance to get the service for free - as long as they don't mind putting up with the occasional ad in between songs.
"This is a strong move into the streaming music market and puts Google, once again, squarely up against Apple," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "With the free service, it gives Google another audience to offer up to advertisers."
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said streaming is the way people are consuming music so it makes sense for Google to push hard into this area, especially if it will take a bite out of Apple's plans.
"Both Apple and Google are going after Pandora and Spotify, as well as absorbing new entrants into the streaming music space," he said. "Google and Apple will be competing, but if the services are close in quality, they'll simply each get their brand loyalists."
Olds, though, said Google is a threat to all contenders - Pandora, Spotify and Apple.
"Google is always a real threat to Apple, and vice versa. They're both trying to carve out the same territories," he explained. "For Pandora and Spotify, it means that they're going to see more competition for their customer base. I don't know that Google's service is sophisticated enough yet to be a solid alternative, but this does up the competitive tempo in the market for sure."