Google announced Wednesday the launch of a new music service in partnership with three major record companies, a service that will compete directly with Apple and Amazon to sell music to consumers and allow them to access songs from any PC or Android-based mobile device, but goes a step farther by allowing users to share tracks with friends through the Google+ social network.

"Google Music is about discovering, purchasing and sharing music in new, innovated and personalized ways," said Jamie Rosenberg, Google's director of digital content for Android.

The new Google Music service will sell individual song downloads for 99 cents from Google's Android Market. The service is launching for everyone in the U.S. today at, and will allow Android users to upload and stream up to 20,000 songs for free from any PC or Android-based mobile device.

"Other cloud (music) services think you have to pay to listen to music you already own. We don't," he added.

Many observers had expected Google to launch a similar music service at its annual developers conference back in May. But Google was unable to obtain the licenses from two of the major recording labels it needed to sell music online, as Apple does with iTunes, and instead offered a stripped-down version that allowed users to upload and then stream songs they have previously purchased to a computer or smartphone.

Full story: MercuryNews