Google on Tuesday announced a new online service called Google Play that consolidates previously separate entertainment-based online services into a single location that's easily accessible by users of the company's Android mobile OS. Ultimately, what we're looking at here is a rebranding of the Android Marketplace that better positions the service to compete with Apple's dominant iTunes Store.
"Google Play is a 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," Google Director of Digital Content Jamie Rosenberg wrote in a post to the Official Google Blog. "Google Play is entirely cloud-based, so all your music, movies, books, and apps are stored online, always available to you, and you never have to worry about losing them or moving them again."
And that, apparently, is how Google hopes to differentiate Play from iTunes, at least for now: With iTunes, only some content is available for immediate streaming to Apple's devices. But some content—like movies, podcasts, audiobooks, and more—needs to be downloaded manually before it can be accessed. On the other hand, iTunes still offers much more content (and many more content types) than does Google Play.
According to Google, Android Market, Google Music, and the Google eBookstore will all be rebranded as part of Google Play. This will happen over the next couple of days, as the Android-based apps for these services are updated.
"Our long-term goal is to roll out as many different types of content as possible to people around the world, and we'll keep adding new content to keep it fresh," Rosenberg added. The service lets you store as many as 20,000 songs in the cloud for free, access more than 450,000 Android mobile apps, browse a reasonable selection of electronic books, and rent—but not purchase—thousands of movies, many in HD. (Rented movies can be played on Android devices or via the web.)
So, is this a game changer? Frankly, Google always moves a bit too aggressively toward a future of pervasive connectivity with its products. But it relies on excellent and always-available bandwidth at a time when such a thing is a fantasy for many people, and this could be an Achilles Heel for those who don't live in areas with good coverage.
If you'd like to know more about Google Play, please visit the new Introducing Google Play site. Or navigate to the main Google Play site to browse the available music, e-books, movies, and Android apps.