According to multiple music industry sources, Google could launch a music service that offers song downloads and streaming music as early as this fall.

Google has already signaled that it wishes to give users of phones equipped with Google’s Android operating system a better music offering. At Google’s I/O conference last month, the search engine offered attendees a demonstration of a Web-based iTunes competitor. AlsoTechCrunch reported two weeks ago that it discovered a “Google Music” logo hosted on Google’s domain.

But Google’s plans go beyond Android, say music sector insiders. CNET has learned that Google first stoked excitement among executives at some of the top four major labels during the Consumer Electronics Show in January. That’s where they revealed some of the features that a Google music store might include, such as closely tying digital downloads and streaming music to Google’s search results.

Google did not respond to interview requests.

Read more after the break.

Google knows music
Last fall, Google first began wedding songs to search. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company launched Music Onebox and enabled people searching for song titles to stream the tunes via online music stores Lala.com and iLike.

A Google-backed challenge to Apple’s vice-like grip on legal online music sales would be warmly welcomed by the top labels. They have tried for years to convince heavy hitters such as Google, Facebook, and AOL to take on iTunes.

The other top digital music stores, Amazon and MySpace Music, have yet to cut into Apple’s huge market share. But even those two big names don’t have Google’s reach with Web consumers.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt can already hang his hat on the success of YouTube’s music videos. Before three of the four top labels launched Vevo and took control of their videos, YouTube was by far the Web’s most successful streaming music service. Zahavah Levine, YouTube’s general counsel who previously worked with RealNetworks’ Rhapsody music subscription service, has a prominent role in helping to develop Google’s new music store, the sources said.

The other piece of Google’s music puzzle is software company Simplify Media, which Google acquired earlier this year after kicking the tires on several cloud-based media services. Simplify enabled PC and Mac users to stream songs from their computer-based iTunes or WinAmp libraries to other Web-enabled devices. Vic Gundotra, a Google engineering exec, said during C/O that Google would build Simplify Media’s technology into a future version of the Android OS and thereby boost Android’s music features.

Google is racing iTunes to be first with a cloud service. Sources in the music and movie sectors have said Apple is working on a Web-based iTunes service that could enable users to store music and video on digital shelves and then stream the content to Web-enabled devices.

So, why Apple works on a cloud service, CEO Steve Jobs might be surprised to find Google has begun serenading iTunes users.

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