Google’s music download store could launch by year’s end, giving Apple its first real competitor since Microsoft bowed the-DOA-Zune.

In addition to the music store, Google’s plans would also include a song locker service, according to Reuters.  Google has not locked up any deals with labels to license music although discussions are ongoing, led by Google’s Andy Rubin. He helmed the Android mobile operation system.

Things are warming up in the music space, as Sony announced its digital music service, Music Unlimited, earlier this week at a conference in Germany.

"Finally here's an entity with the reach, resources and wherewithal to take on iTunes as a formidable competitor by tying it into search and Android mobile platform," a label executive who asked not to be identified told Google. "What you'll have is a very powerful player in the market that's good for the music business."