It's being reported that Google is planning to launch a music service imminently. A number of sources quoted by TechCrunch are saying that the company is securing content from major labels, and one source has named the offering "Google Audio".

At a time when the whole world and its dog are launching music services, it's unclear whether the music platform will be download-based like iTunes, streaming-based like Spotify and Pandora, or a hybrid of the two like Napster and Sky Songs. It'll be available to "at least" the US, but we'd predict that it'd be limited to the States for the time being - licensing of tracks in multiple territories is a real headache.

Google already has a music service in China that allows users to download tracks for free, and it has a music search engine that can be accessed by putting "music:" before a query in the search box. Songs accessed that way aren't available to listen to, however.

This is a breaking story and we'll bring you more news as it arrives.

Thanks to Alan for the tip.

Update: A little trawling has revealed that Google Audio popped up in 2006 on the company's job search boards. There were talks at the time with major labels, but nothing came of it. Could it be that Google decided the industry wasn't ready back then, and it is now?

Update II: TechCrunch is now reporting that iLike and Lala will be partnering with Google on this one, and it'll allow users to stream songs from search results. There'll also be the option to buy downloads. Seems like an odd move to us, especially as current streaming options from both iLike and Lala are very limited, but perhaps there's more to it. We'll keep you posted.