Summary:

Amid talk surrounding the Apple-Google app store battle, many have overlooked Apple’s main advantage: the direct billing relationship with consumers thanks to iTunes. But Google now sees a new entry point to your wallet which hits right at the core strengths of Apple: music and books.

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Disappointing returns on its paid-content efforts mean Google, for all its power, has yet to establish a more intimate relationship with consumers in the form of a direct-billing relationship.

While some would argue Google doesn’t care to get into your wallet, I suggest otherwise in my weekly column at GigaOM Pro. After all, Google knows the built-in advantage Apple brings to the app-store battle with tens of millions of iTunes billing relationships. These direct billing relationships with consumers mean more money in Apple’s pocket, but they also mean consumers are more apt to buy content due to a pre-existing relationship.

With the expected release of a cloud-based music service and Google Editions, will the search powerhouse finally start to reach directly into more consumers wallets?

Before that question can be answered, Google’s wedge strategy using cloud-based media deserves a look. Both of its new paid-content services rely heavily on cloud-based storage and consumption. With music, early details suggest a cloud-based storage locker with streaming of purchased music, where Google would sell music and split the revenues with the labels.

On the e-books front, Google Editions is the storefront component of the long-gestating Google Books effort, and would have Google act as both a direct consumer-facing e-book store, as well as a backend billing and content engine for smaller book retailers who wanted to work with Google.

Google will not be alone in movement toward the model. Amazon would likely move quickly to offer similar functionality for e-books if Google was eating into its market share, and Apple will likely find a way to store and stream iTunes-purchased content, even if that requires consumers to use an Apple device to view it.

Most importantly, what may ultimately foil Google’s plans is the growing unease among consumers over how much of our digital lives the company already controls. By dominating search, online software and online advertising, and making in-roads into things like TV (and, of course, communications), the piece of our digital life consumers may want to withhold from Google is our credit card and bank information.

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Image Source: flickr user Jsome1

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