Kiss Google Music, Google Books, and the Android Market as you know them goodbye. Google is streamlining all of its digital media under a new destination called Google Play, which allows users to tap into 20,000 free songs (and choose from millions more to buy), download Android apps, browse e-books, and rent thousands of movies — all of which can be done from any web browser or Android device. "This is about going beyond just Android," said Google engineering director Chris Yerga; it's a move meant to unite all of Google's products under a single flag to better go toe-to-toe with Apple's iTunes. (Users can expect to see the changes rolled out in the coming days.) But is it too-little, too-late for Google, given that iTunes already commands a 70 percent share of the digital music market? Or will the company's aggressive re-branding give Google the edge it needs?
Google Play means bad news for the competition: While Apple and Amazon both have their own cloud-based entertainment services, nothing is "quite as comprehensive as Google's do-it-all Google Play," says Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at ZDNet. (Apple, for example, doesn't have a version of iBooks for the Mac desktop). The basic idea is "to make it mindlessly simple to read, play, watch, or listen to any of your content no matter where you are." For consumers this means a comprehensive new cloud service; for Apple and Amazon, it means a huge "headache."
"Google Play: Google’s ultimate answer to Amazon and Apple"
It's a step, at least: This move shows that Google is maturing, says Mike Isaac at Wired. "The unification exercise aims to address a natural fragmentation," which is the result of rolling out Google Music, the Android Market, and Google Books individually over the years. Apple, on the other hand, has long funneled its digital media through "one unified, idiot-proof storefront," which yielded the company $1.7 billion in revenues last fiscal quarter alone. Google Play is a start, but Google needs "to execute well to boost its mobile content bottom line." And playing catch-up with Apple is easier said than done.
"With 'Play,' Google Serves Up Its iTunes Moment"
Why, Google, why? Google is full of smart people, but this brand refresh is a "brain-dead" decision, says Matt Burns at TechCrunch. "Play" sounds like "a nifty place to hang out when you're six, not a place to download useful apps or insightful books." Instead of livening up the Android Market with a fresh coat of paint, Google gave it a completely unnecessary retooling. "Consumers aren't dumb." Android users know where to get their media. "If Android Market wasn't the right branding for the job, then it shouldn't have been used from the start." Google Play is just "silly."
"Google Play? What the hell was wrong with Android Market?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- The girl who wouldn't die
- Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage
- How to get the highest-end iPhone 6 Plus for just $120
Subscribe to the Week