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'Google Audio' Launch Imminent: Report

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Google (GOOG) is about to launch a music service, according to the TechCrunch Web site, a move that would intensify the search giant's burgeoning rivalry with Apple (AAPL - Get Report).

Citing multiple sources, TechCrunch says that the search giant has spent the last several weeks securing content from major record labels. One source said that the new service has been dubbed Google Audio.

The technology news site said that the service will differ from Google China's music download service and will be available at least within the U.S. At this stage, however, it is not clear whether the new offering is a download or streaming service, according to TechCrunch.

A move into digital music would represent a clear challenge to Apple's iTunes empire and would also be in keeping with Google's attempts to expand beyond its traditional search business. The Internet giant, for example, is reportedly jumping into the smartphone market with its own Android phone.

There certainly have been signs that the Internet leviathan is gearing up for an Apple battle. In August, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stepped down from the Apple board, highlighting the increasing competition between the two tech giants.

Google has thrown its weight behind its Android and Chrome operating systems, significantly altering the dynamic between the two companies. In addition to the Android smartphone OS, Google will aim its Chrome offering at the low end of the PC market when it launches next year.

With increasing U.S. Government scrutiny of Silicon Valley, there was also speculation that Schmidt's departure was an attempt to avoid additional antitrust attention from regulators. Earlier this month Google confirmed that Apple director Arthur Levinson had resigned from its board, averting a potential showdown with the Federal Trade Commission.

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