The new Google Play app store replaces the Android Market, but it’s a rebranding exercise rather than a revamp, says Matt Warman.
Why is Google not making much of an impact on the tablet market, yet its phones are taking over the world? According to Android boss Andy Rubin at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress, it’s because consumers do not see the platform as an ecosystem. They do, however, see Apple's iTunes Store as a comprehensive place for movies, games, apps and music.
It’s in that context that Google is rebranding its App Store, formerly called the Android Market. Now dubbed Google Play, the idea is that consumers more clearly perceive that, just like iTunes, Google is also a place to go for films, music, apps or books.
Google knows, as Nokia boss Steven Elop never tires of saying, there is increasingly a war of ecosystems, and it must make the Android version the most attractive option available. With the new rebranding of Android Market, there’s plenty of emphasis on the comprehensive nature of the stores, and the hope is that a whole range of users, who previously associated the Android Market simply with free apps, will be drawn to download a film or, in certain markets, upload their own content so that the whole thing becomes a comprehensive, web-based service for content. If they watch it first on a phone or tablet, the leap to the television is a smaller one thanks to increasing internet connectivity.
Indeed, it’s that web-based idea that is much of the reason for Google’s revamp. They want to emphasise that a Play account allows users to access all their content, of which Android apps are just a small part, from anywhere they can get online.
And it’s the website rather than the app that is the more changed part of the equation – aside from a new icon, with a shopping bag, the original Market app is basically the same. Its emphasis, in fact, is as much as it ever was on the mixture of books, movies and apps. The main thing Google needs to do is to sort out more international consistency when it comes to the availability of services (such as Music) – and simply to sell more so that people become increasingly aware of the service. No wonder it’s opening with a massive sale. But the uncomfortable truth is, as an experience, even if the Android Market was already much better than it ever has been before, it still lacks the polish of Apple. There should be little doubt, however, about Google's determination to change that.