Playing the Game

Google Play now sits firmly atop the web crown jewels of Google’s search page. It’s fifth in line to the throne, and has been thrust ahead of some of the long-time Google big guns (such as GMail, YouTube, Docs and Calendar).

At first I found it surprising that the Android Market is suddenly GONE. (Surely it was much loved and heavily recognised among the geek elite?) But Android’s relegation to a bit-part feature is actually fairly obvious when you think about it.

From the start, “Android” seemed to be an all too quirky little moniker designed, I assume, to get the geeks and R2D2 fetishists on board during the OS’s difficult entrance into the market.

But the Android path to glory (in the smartphone market share stats, at least) was so quick that it must have taken even Google by surprise.

And now Android has MASSIVE market share, investment, time and geeky kudos. But really tiny profits – and a sea of litigation and burned bridges.

As far as I can see, Google’s endeavours have so far led to:

  • A massive fall out with one time friends, Apple.
  • An impending case with Oracle about the very foundations of Android.
  • One big corporate success – and it’s Samsung, not Google!
  • A load of other handset makers all struggling.
  • A strange purchase of an old fashioned hardware vendor, in Motorola. Perhaps to fight patents? or look beyond Android?
  • Stabbing net-neutrality right in the back, all while getting far too cosy to the incumbent carriers.
  • The loss of a lot of good will among some users and commentators.

Now the masses are flocking to get a smartphone or tablet and Google REALLY doesn’t want to be saddled with a mobile services brand that competes using the Android name, not the Google name, in an area that’s vital for future mass market growth. Or looking at it more pessimistically, an Android brand that may crash and burn among the wreckage of patent litigation, fragmentation and vendor mismanagement.

Imagine trying to explain to a mass market how Android is… erm… usually Google services… but is also a catch all term for an Open Source OS that buy cheap generic levitra online manufacturers and programmers use… and then, in the case of Amazon and B&N, customise and “fork”… and then remove Google services from. Yuk!

To the larger market, Android is the petrol or the tyres you use on your car. Important, for sure, but you never go and specifically look for a Michelin or Shell car. Google wants to at least be a “Ford” or “GM” in the mobile market (compared to Apple’s “BMW” or “Mercedes”).

It definitely doesn’t want to be a geek friendly afterthought lagging behind the phone vendors and carriers in public recognition (with Google’s good name used by these companies to reassure their own financial departments – while they further annoy the big G by futzing around with the Android experience.)

So, instead of having a victory parade for Android and its services, Google suddenly dumps the name “Android Market”, THE connection between the apps and the Android OS – and it covers them in a sprinkling of fresh Google dust with the new name “Google Play”.

There, everyone will now think of Google when getting all their mobile apps, games and videos. Sorted!

But will they? Will Google Play become an iTunes type conglomeration of apps, music and videos that could even make a profit in the future? Or will “Play” become another Google project that runs out of steam?

Make no bones about it, Google is WORRIED about Android being forked by competitors and detracting from the vital Google mass market mind-share. They needed to act quickly and shore up possible future revenue streams and market presence. And so we have “Play”.

I’m sure Google doesn’t want to just serve ads to the mobile market in the future (the main argumanet about Android’s financial viability) – and it must be worried about its continuing reliance on the “fools’ game” that is internet ads. I mean, just look at the state of desktop browser ads: does it really do Google any favours?

Interesting times. But it all looks set for a Google Play Motorola Tablet, and a wider sprinkling of the Google Play brand. It is still a terrible name, though!

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