n March 2012, Google made a bold move with the creation of a new digital content service called Google Play. Google Play combines the Android Market, Google Music, Google Movies, and Google books into one service which can be accessed from the web and from any Android-powered device.
From a long-term perspective, Google Play is meant to be part of the unifying force behind the company’s mobile strategy. In August 2011, Google acquired Motorola Mobility in order to boost the Android ecosystem, and just a few days ago Google announced plans to build and sell Android-based tablets directly to consumers rather than through their hardware manufacturing partners. (Google has already tested the waters of hardware sales to customers with the Nexus One back in 2010.) It’s clear that Google wants to move away from the name “Android” and begin to brand all of their mobile distributed services under one clear name.
What’s not clear is why they chose that name.
Android users were familiar with term “Android Market” and knew what it stood for easily (even with Google Music, Google Books, etc. as standalone apps within the market). However, the name “Google Play Store” — or is it just “Play Store”? — feels just as rushed as Google Play’s launch. The Android Market is one of the operating system’s major features, because your apps and downloaded files were synced across your Android device. None of that changes with Google Play, but the re-branding may make it more confusing for newer Android users.
The Google Play Store wasn’t the only name change — Google Music, Google Movies, and Google Books are now called Google Play Music, Google Play Movies, and Google Play Books. On devices, this is shortened to Play Music, Play Movies, Play Books, and there are also new icons for each of these apps.
Google Play’s launch is also centered mostly around US Android tablet and smartphone users. The full suite of Google Play apps are available here in the States, but a full global roll-out is still pending. Users in the UK and Canada have access to the Play Store, Play Movies, and Play Books. Australia has access to the Play Store and Play Books, and Japan has access to the Play Store and Play Movies. Every other country in the world just has the Play Store, which puts the entire Google Play ecosystem on pause until implementation in other countries is fully complete. (There’s a thread on Google+ about the Google Play roll-out that has well over 260 comments about this.)
The same goes for Google Play on Google TV. Google Play Books, Google Play Movies, and Google Play Music are said to be available on the Google Play Store on Google TV, but that’s not the case across all Google TV devices (namely, the Logitech Revue). Google Play Music is available for Google TV, but not the other two services. This may be part of Google’s plan to completely phase out support for the Revue (perhaps in anticipation for a newer, better Google TV set-top box), but for now, Revue users will only be able to use Google Play Music.
Google is moving full force with marketing Google Play, and has even given the service prominence in their ubiquitous navbar, which is present across a majority of Google’s services. Including Google Play front and center for users (along with the bright red “New” superscript) is a little blatant, but doing so would make users who are unfamiliar with the service take notice.
There’s no doubt that Google Play is a step in the right direction for Google with regards to strengthening their mobile brand and readying their digital media hub for their upcoming line of tablets. And, like any of Google’s products or services, this is only the beginning. However, they will still have to go a long way to ensure current users that Google Play is more than the sum of its parts.