Google Inc. (GOOGL) Takes a Well-Timed Swipe at Apple Inc. (AAPL)

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) unveiled its free music streaming service just days before Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is slated to launch Apple Music

by Karee Venema

Published on Jun 24, 2015 at 10:59 AM

To the dismay of Spotify and Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P), the streaming music scene has been all the rage of late, thanks to new ventures from hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and tech titan Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). While the former's Tidal has had a shaky start -- and just lost its second CEO -- Apple Music, a $10-per-month service, will debut on June 30. Just days ahead of AAPL's launch, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) unveiled a free tier of its streaming arm Google Play Music -- which will be funded by ad revenue, and can be accessed immediately on the Internet (and later this week on Android and iOS).

In what can only be considered a poke at AAPL, GOOGL made sure to stress the new service -- which will include the technology of Songza, a music start-up the company acquired last year -- will compensate artists. The iPhone purveyor came under fire earlier this week for its royalty payment plan, a blaze Taylor Swift was quick to put out.

Yesterday's announcement follows a string of headlines about possible new ventures for Google, including a rumored partnership with smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) and a potential buyout bid for real estate issue Zillow Group Inc (NASDAQ:Z). Additionally, the company announced recently it is throwing its hat in the gaming ring, creating direct competition for Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).

On the charts, the stock has been choppy since hitting its most recent high of $584.70 in late April. This week -- despite the broader Nasdaq Composite (COMP) exploring record highs -- GOOGL has stalled out in the $565 region, and was last seen lingering near $560.84.

Option traders, meanwhile, have grown increasingly skeptical of this lackluster price action. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), GOOGL's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.71 ranks in the 86th annual percentile. In other words, puts have been bought to open over calls at a faster-than-usual clip.

Outside of the options pits, however, sentiment is more optimistic toward Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL). Of the 28 analysts covering the shares, 23 maintain a "buy" or better rating, with not a single "sell" to be found. Plus, the average 12-month price target of $639.54 stands in record-high territory.

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