There are some new hints that a Google music store, which could compete with Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store and other download services, is on the way.
The most recent evidence is adding "/music" to google.com's robots.txt file, meaning that such a subdirectory is expected to be created any time.
We also noticed this odd behavior earlier today. No "google.com/music" Web site exists on the public Internet. But searching Google's index for "google.com/music" yields a different result than the standard "Sorry, no information is available for the URL" error message.
This follows a report by Garret Rogers at our ZDNET sister site saying the final name will not be "Google Music" but perhaps something like GMusic.
What else? The company announced last week that a new Pearl Jam video would be available for free on Google Video -- making the company's lack of ability to make money off of downloads of the band's music unusually obvious.
Forbes.com wrote last month that Google "met with a group of music industry executives" and an analyst says it'll launch a music store soon. The Financial Times has also reported that "Amazon and Google are separately in talks with music industry executives about new digital music services that could break Apple's grip on the fast-growing market for legal downloads."
Google also has posted ads with job openings at a "Google Audio" in New York. One, for an account executive, says he or she will have to "sell network, national agency accounts, transactional advertising solutions, and client direct accounts, including custom built advertising solutions." (Though to be fair, that description sounds more like audio advertising than a music store.)
Of course, if and when any "Gtunes" store launches, one big question will be whether it will use some kind of digital rights management or not. A DRM-embracing Google stands a good chance of alienating the free-software crowd -- and anyone who wants to use Gtunes-purchased music on their iPod. (The only DRM variant compatible with the iPod is Apple's FairPlay embedded in iTunes.) But if Google follows emusic's model and does not wrap songs in DRM, major record labels may balk.
Our hunch is that the best place to monitor what happens will be GoogleMusic.com, a domain which was registered in 2003 and is owned by Google but is currently blank -- at least for now.