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Report: Google searching for music chief?

Word leaks out that Google is looking for someone to steer an Android music unit a day after Apple calls a press conference presumably about music. Coincidence?

Google CEO Eric Schmidt (center) is about to raise his music profile. Last December, he visited with Universal Music Group Chairman Doug Morris and Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, Sony Music chief. Greg Sandoval/CNET

We've known for a while that Google has plans to launch a music service, but the search engine is now searching for someone to lead the music venture, according to a published report.

Citing industry sources, the blog All Things Digital reported that Google has spoken to several digital-media executives about the job but hasn't hired anyone yet. Google has spoken to the labels about launching a music service that offers song downloads, streams music, and ties music into the company's all-powerful search engine, as early as this fall, according to people familiar with the situation.

Those same sources now say that the launch of any Google music store may be pushed back to the first quarter of 2011.

The news that Google is searching for a digital music chief has surprised some in the recording sector. Andy Rubin, Google's vice president of engineering who oversees the Android operating system, has has handled talks with the top four record companies and has appeared very much in control.

It's interesting to note that the news about Google's search leaked a day after Apple called a press conference presumably about music. If Google does challenge Apple in the digital music sector, it will only increase the white-hot competition going on between them.

Google may be unlike any previous iTunes challenge Apple has ever faced because Google can launch a successful hardware-software, one-two punch. Sales figures indicate Android is shaping up to become a significant threat to the iPhone. I recently jumped to the Sprint EVO after losing my iPhone 3G. I loved that handset but wanted another to dump AT&T.

One way Android phones can make things better is to improve the music buying and storing experience. I had to use to sync my iTunes library to my EVO and it was clunky. To buy music, the phone offers me Amazon MP3. There's nothing wrong with Amazon's music service on the EVO, but there's nothing special about it either. Google should offer me a slicker way to purchase music.

Beyond launching its own store, Google could also offer me a way to shop at multiple music stores but complete transactions at Google checkout. Enable me to expand my music search without having to leave Google's interface and that would keep the transactional experience simple.

George Kliavkoff helped build Hulu.

As for potential candidates to lead Google Music, I couldn't find anyone who knows who the search giant has interviewed. But here are just a few people who have winning track records in digital media.

• George Kliavkoff, vice president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, helped build Hulu into a video-portal powerhouse during his tenure at NBC Universal and helped turn Major League Baseball's Advanced Media, into the most successful digital subscription service.

• Evan Harrison, who ran the digital operations for Clear Channel Radio for six years, is available. PaidContentreported on Thursday that Harrison just left the company.

• Billy Alvarado, one of the four founders of, recently left Apple, sources said. Google execs were trying to acquire the streaming music service but were outbid by Apple last December.

This story was updated at 3:30 PDT with added context.