In what is considered to be a major move by many, Google has launched its Google Play service as a way to revive the brand. While the search giant’s Android mobile platform has enjoyed widespread adoption, its Android Market has failed to generate sufficient interest from consumers in Google’s eyes. By combining apps and games, books, movies, and music into a rebranded one-stop shop that’s accessible from any Android device or the Web, the company hopes it can become more competitive in the content arena against its main rival, Apple.
According to Jamie Rosenberg, Google’s director of digital content, the Google Play transition has already occurred. Although it is abrupt, the packaging of the Android Market, Google eBookstore, and Google Music into a comprehensive service should be a change that is welcomed by many Google consumers with open arms. Rosenberg noted that the creation of Google Play helps to break down the barriers that once separated the company’s digital content offerings. “Google Play will become a single experience for users. This creates a more powerful experience around Android and also increases opportunities for content partners,” he added.
The Android name will still back Google’s widely used mobile operating system, but as of now, the Android Market is a thing of the past. This is rather surprising, especially when you consider how much Google invested into building and branding the market since the Android platform was launched over three years ago. What the move does signify, essentially, is that Google finally realized its divided method of providing apps, games, and e-books through the market was not up to snuff as app store competition continues to heat up.
Some of the realization that Google’s digital content delivery was lacking probably came from criticism that its services were too fragmented and failed to blend properly. A perfect example of such failure is Google Music and YouTube. As Google executives marketed Google Music to labels in 2010 and 2011, they pitched the idea of integrating it with YouTube’s vast selection of online music videos. The idea sparked some interest, but, in the end, Google failed to deliver on its promise of integration. Thanks to the new Google Play, the company’s days of leaving music as a standalone service are over, noted Rosenberg.
A closer look at the Android Market reveals why Google Play’s introduction was a necessary one. Yes, the Android platform grew to be the most widely used mobile operating system around. However, the Android Market is another story entirely. Various studies reported that the Android Market’s revenues paled in comparison to Apple’s App Store. The margin of defeat is not minor, either, as Distimo, an app store tracking service, said that Apple’s App Store revenue during last month was four times that of the Android Market. While the Android Market could be deemed as relatively young, it was launched in October 2008. With that much time under its belt and revenues lacking, something had to be done. In the case of Google Play, sooner is much better than later, especially if Google hopes to one day catch the supremely successful App Store.
The Android Market’s problem of lagging revenues trickled down to developers as well. In order to get the most bang for their developing buck, many developers shifted their apps’ business models from up-front payments to mobile ads. The “freemium” model, in which users are granted app access for free with the developer taking the chance that they will pay some sort of a fee later for added features, has also become a method of choice to maximize return on investment. These characteristics of Android app development not only fall behind Apple’s iOS when it comes to potential profits, but even Research In Motion’s BlackBerry App World has said that it beats Google in terms of offering higher profits for its developers.
The Android Market was not Google’s only fledgling service, however. CNET recently reported that the aforementioned Google Music was a letdown in terms of revenue, and sources around the music industry said it failed to successfully snag customers. Some even said that the service was steadily losing customers. Rosenberg would not comment on Google Music’s revenue, but did say that the company was excited about its growth, which had reached approximately 4 million users.
Regardless of the problems that existed with the Android Market and Google Music, Google Play is finally here. The announcement was surprising, but Rosenberg noted that Google had been working on the strategy for quite a while. Although it’s now official, some of the changes as a result of Google Play may take a few days to kick in across the Android platform, but libraries and playlists should remain untouched.
Will Play successfully revive the Android brand? Only time will tell, but the fact that Android users can now access a variety of content under one roof should definitely help.