GOOGLE has launched a direct challenge to Apple in Ireland as it makes music available through its online store for the first time this morning.
Google Play started selling music here today, along with four other European countries, Australia and New Zealand.
The move creates a legitimate challenger to Apple's iTunes in Ireland that had been lacking up to now.
ITunes dominates the Irish market for the legal downloading of songs, with little real opposition. Google's Play has been used only to sell apps for smartphones and tablets running its Android operating system up to now.
The company has signed deals with nearly all the major record labels and hundreds of smaller independent firms. It has also set up a platform for unsigned artists to make their material available for download on the site. Prices are expected to range from between 99c and €1.29 per song.
Unlike iTunes, Google Play relies almost totally on cloud services for its content. Users can download music to their computer or mobile device, but they are encouraged to use streaming services directly from Google's servers.
Google's head of music partnerships Sami Valkonen said Play was much more than just a downloading business.
"It is a completely new kind of digital music service. Instead of downloading, you buy music, store in cloud and it's always available to you and always on android devices whether you are connected or not," he said.
Meanwhile, the EU may force Google to offer users the choice of rival search engines under plans that emerged last night.
The EU believes Google favours its own services in search and may force it to offer other search engines such as Yelp and Expedia.