Google wants to sell you "content" that you might otherwise buy from Amazon, Apple or Microsoft etc. It has therefore rebranded the Android Market as Google Play, and pulled its apps, ebooks, music, and movies -- excluding its YouTube movie service -- into a single cloud-based offering. Or at least, it has if you live in the USA. If you're one of the UK residents contributing £6 billion a year to Google's revenues, you can just wait in line with the rest of the world, though there is hope….
Google introduced Google Play in a blog post today that says:
"In the US, music, movies, books and Android apps are available in Google Play.
In Canada and the UK, we’ll offer movies, books and Android apps; in Australia,
books and apps; and in Japan, movies and apps. Everywhere else, Google Play
will be the new home for Android apps."
However, the link from "When will I get Google Play?", at the bottom of the home page, brings up a page that says: "We're sorry, but the information you've requested cannot be found." It should lead to the Play FAQ.
Google says that "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."
If so, "always available" means users can access their files when they have a working internet connection. This could work out very expensive for people who pay for bandwidth.
Only Android apps are actually written for Android, and the content files are mainly cross-platform, so the Android name had to go. Google could have held on to "Market" but this has a somewhat downmarket feel, so that went as well. Play is dull but does the job, though it remains to be seen if the popular online retailer Play.com will object. (Google would have rejected iPlay as making the service sound too much like an iTunes knock-off.)
Being cross-platform should give Google an advantage against Apple, which is only really interested in providing content to play on Apple devices, and tries to force Windows PC owners to use its widely-hated iTunes software. However, that hasn't helped Amazon much, even though it frequently offers better products than Apple at lower prices.
But at this stage, it's not clear whether Google actually intends to target Play at the cross-platform market. Play could be aimed mainly at users of Google TV, and possibly at owners of Google-branded mobile phones and tablets, in the way that Amazon uses its Kindle Fire tablet as a shop window.
In December, Google chairman Eric Schmidt apparently told an Italian publication: "In the next six months, we plan to market a tablet of the highest quality." In May, before that, Google showed developers some Android@Home devices that streamed music. An FCC application has revealed that Google is testing the device in homes this year, from 17 January to 17 July.
Google is in the process of buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion -- a 63 percent premium on what it's worth -- so it should soon own its own hardware division. This would enable Google to make phones, tablets, set-top boxes and other devices without consulting or involving other Android users such as Samsung and HTC… and risk wrecking the Android ecosystem.