Google just took the wrapper off a new service called Google Play. It’s a single cloud-based media store for apps, songs, books and movies that streams between Android devices and the desktop. The Android Market and Google Music have been rolled into it. There’s lots of free streaming content available, and you can pay for the rest with Google Wallet. It’s rolling out globally starting today, but not all content is available everywhere.
The Google Music service launched in November has apparently been re-branded to be a part of Google Play, and it’s U.S.-only. Android apps are available in a long list of countries. Movies and books are available in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. Japan also has movies, and Australia also has books. Google Play allows users to pin content for offline listening, viewing or reading, but otherwise it streams from the cloud.
Google Play will allow Android users to switch between devices and pick up their entertainment where they left off. It’s a convenience of cloud-based modern life that no service or family of devices has quite nailed yet. Unlike Apple’s media, which push the whole file to each device, Google Play will play from the Web unless specifically told to do otherwise. Assuming a good Internet connection, this will allow for a consistent experience.
This surprise from Google is conspicuously timed for the day before the announcement of the next iPad. Apple’s iOS devices and Apple TV are smoothly integrated for entertainment thanks to its iCloud syncing, the iTunes Store and AirPlay. That makes Google Play an important service if it wants to stay in the home entertainment game. It is, in effect, Google’s iTunes.
Google has made some big promises in home entertainment for this year, but Google TV has failed to capture much of the market. Apple is probably going to hit a home run tomorrow with the iPad announcement, so Google has to make its move. Ironically, the most successful media-centerd Android tablet these days is sold by Amazon. The Kindle Fire as a media service is selling pretty well. It’s a good idea for Google to consolidate its offerings into one place with Google Play. We’ll see how that goes.