Tuesday, March 06, 2012, 11:40 am PT (02:40 pm ET)
Android Market, Books, Music rebranded "Google Play" to compete with Apple's iTunesGoogle has rebranded its Android Market mobile software store as Google Play, folding in Google Music and the company's eBookstore to create a single brand for all of its digital and cloud based content services, similar to Apple's iTunes.
The new Google Play umbrella branding deemphasizes Android, highlighting instead Google's own corporate brand as being a source for content that is playable not just on devices incorporating Android software, but from any web-enabled device.
Google Play categorizes its content under Movies, Music, Books and Apps and Games, only the later of which requires an Android device.
"Google Play is available on any computer with a modern browser at play.google.com," the company states on its introduction page. "On the web, you can browse and buy books, movies and music. You can read books on the Google Play web reader, listen to music on your computer or watch movies online. Your digital content is all stored in the cloud, so you can access from anywhere using your Google Account.
"Weve also created ways to experience your music and books on other platforms such as the Google Books iOS app."
Google's web-centric iTunes
The company describes the new Google Play as its "digital entertainment destination where you can find, enjoy and share your favorite music, movies, books and apps on the web and on your Android phone or tablet."
The new branding is currently US-centric, as Google Play doesn't yet support music in the Canada or the UK, doesn't yet support movies or music in Australia, doesn't yet support music or books in Japan, and doesn't currently support anything apart from Android apps in any other country.
While not as widely available as iTunes, Google Play matches Apple's cloud focus (even borrowing the company's iCloud logo on its official Google Play website), and integrates Google+ similar to Apple's iTunes Ping social network, although Google adds a feature to allow users to share a free listen to the songs they share.
Google also highlights its own version of iTunes Genius features including store recommendations and "Instant Mix" playlists. Google Play also offers streaming features similar to iTunes Match, although rather than matching your music library, it requires you to upload all your songs manually to the cloud.
Google's troubled Android Market
Despite Android being widely used by smartphone makers, Google has struggled to gain traction for app sales in Android Market. Apple's iOS platform continues to eat up around 90 percent of mobile software revenues.
At the end of 2010, Google refreshed its Android Market design, but early last year the company's Android platform manager Eric Chu told developers that Google is "not happy" about the limited number of apps actually being purchased.
Chu indicated that Google planned to turn Android users' Address Books into a "social graph" that third party apps could tap into, and said that Google was "betting on" HTML5 as a way to create apps, a continuation of Google's strategy to use Android as a stepping stone to eventually deliver mobile software via cross platform web standards.
Users, however, have not been quick to embrace web apps with the same degree of enthusiasm as native apps for iOS. Apple initially offered a web apps API for iPhone developers, but quickly moved to support native apps. Native iPad apps have also served as a major attraction to Apple's new tablet, which will see its third generation released tomorrow.
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