Google yesterday announced the introduction of a music search feature on its general search engine. Type in "Coldplay", for example, and a box at the top of the search page gives you links to Coldplay's music, bios, photos and stores that sell CDs and downloads. In announcing the feature, Google Search Quality Product Manager David Alpert wrote:
We do this sort of thing a lot -- adding a bit of special information to results for important searches. For example, we have movie showtimes and stock quotes. The more information we can make easily accessible with a simple search, the better.
Right now the music search feature mostly works for artists popular in the U.S. and a more limited number of artists from other countries, but we plan to expand it to classical music, worldwide artists, and lesser-known performers. Our list of music stores will also grow over time.
Four stock-related points to note:
GRU and LOOK: "Adding a bit of special information to results for important searches" is the opposite of setting up stand-alone search engines for specific verticals. That is, it's the opposite of LookSmart's (ticker: LOOK) vertical search strategy. But Google's strategy, to evolve from a search engine to an answer engine is exactly what small cap Answers Corporation (formerly GuruNet -- GRU, now ANSW) is trying to do with Answers.com. But Google has far deeper resources than Answers Corp. does.
EBAY and SSP: Google's integration of comparison shopping poses a threat. Google's integration of shopping features into its general search engine is a shot across the bow of the pure-play comparison shopping engines. Shopping.com, Shopzilla and now Price Grabber will look back five years from now with relief that they sold out, because vertical search engines won't be able to compete with general search engines with vertical capabilities. Scripps, eBay and GUS Plc may look less smart.
AMZN: Amazon loses... again. Google's introduction of music search will have two detrimental long-term effects on Amazon. First, by making comparison shopping even more accessible, it will increase the price pressure on Amazon. And second, Google could turn out to the be leading channel for purchase of digital downloads of music and movies in five years time. And Google's re-inforcement of general versus vertical search further reduces the chances that Amazon will succeed in its outsourced search strategy (see Is Amazon a Threat or a Failure?).
AAPL: A tougher call. Apple's position in digital music is powered by the usability of iTunes, its use of a proprietary music format, and its dominance of the MP3 player market. Does Google really pose a threat to Apple? Not clear; I'd be interested to see readers' thoughts.
TechDirt: "the plan is not to offer their own music store, but to link to iTunes and others. Remember that phrase: "iTunes and others," because that seems to be the key. The rumor we mentioned back in the summer was that it was just iTunes, and we wondered how the "others" would feel about that."
Chris Sherman: "Google is late to the game with music search results—Ask Jeeves, MSN and Yahoo have all offered similar features for some time... Yahoo Audio Search database and music price comparison engine launched in August is a site that is not to be missed by any music lover."
The Kelsey Group: "Google is “ambivalent