So long, Android Market: later on Tuesday Google is scheduled to begin rolling out a new version of its storefront for apps, music, movies, and books called Google Play. The hope is to remind Android users that it offers content while also trying to make it easier to buy content from Google over the Web.
It’s really just a straight name change: there are no new partners, products, services or other major changes to announce as far as Google’s relationships with app companies and content companies, said Chris Yerga, director of engineering for Android. But at some time over the next several weeks, Android users around the world will be prompted to replace the familiar “Market” icon on their devices with the “Play Store” icon as the primary vehicle for getting apps onto their devices. Web users of the Android Market will be redirected to play.google.com, where they will see a familiar design with subtle changes highlighting the array of content that Google offers through its storefront.
Google felt that it could improve the way it presented its content stores with the redesign and rebranding, Yerga said. Web surfers weren’t always aware that Google offered an array of content through the “Android” storefront, which is understandable if they weren’t also Android users. And sometimes the experiences were jarring: for example, you would listen to your music library at Google Music but you would purchase music through the Android Market.
Google Play will remind some of Apple’s iTunes Store in terms of the way Google is presenting all of the digital content that it sells–apps, books, music, and movies–through a single store. But it’s almost like Google is de-emphasizing apps with this rebranding: Android users are pretty familiar with the Android Market as the home for apps, and changing the application store to a brand that doesn’t feature “Android” at all could be confusing for some at first.
This change will be required for any device maker or carrier who wants to offer apps through Google’s stores, and users will be required to sign into Google’s services in order to access the store. That means Kindle Fire users won’t be able to access the Play Store, although of course one of the main reasons Amazon built the Kindle Fire was to promote its own content offerings.
Google will allow its partners to carry links to other content stores and third-party app stores won’t be affected by the change, Yerga said. Android users will have to be using version 2.2 (Froyo) or above in order to access the new store, although those on older versions (now only 10 percent of Android users) will still be able to get apps.
All in all, the change seems designed to remind everyone–especially the millions using Android devices–that Google offers a lot of content. Google hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with its content services, although the company did say Monday that it has 4 million Google Music users.
It’s also hard to miss the fact that the rebranding reinforces a “Google” brand at the heart of the Android experience, which is so often dictated by Google partners.