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Google Play Merges Android Market With Music, eBookStore

Google's new online marketplace is a move to compete with Apple's iTunes store.

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Having just consolidated of its privacy policies, Google is combining its music, app, and ebook stores.

Google on Tuesday introduced Google Play, a cloud-based service formed from the merger of Android Market, Google Music, and Google eBookstore. It's Google's take on Apple's iTunes Store, with a dash of iCloud.

Google Play stores content on Google's servers and makes that content available to users via Android phones, computers with Web browsers, and other mobile devices, like Apple's iPhone, through a service-specific app or the device's mobile browser.

Google director of digital content Jamie Rosenberg characterizes the unified store as an effort to eliminate the hassle of moving files between computers and syncing devices.

[ Read How To Become An App Millionaire. ]

"Google Play is entirely cloud-based so all your music, movies, books, and apps are stored online, always available to you, and you never have to worry about losing them or moving them again," he said in a blog post.

Just as Google's decision earlier this year to begin mixing Google+ content into organic search results can be seen as a way to increase the visibility and vitality of Google+, the company's construction of a unified online store under the Google Play brand appears to be a way to encourage the large Android Market audience to explore the more empty aisles of Google music and ebook stores.

Al Hilwa, program director of applications software development at research firm IDC, says that Google is building out its Android content ecosystem to meet the challenge posed by Apple and its set of content services.

"The leading device application platforms have a responsibility to provide their users with integrated multifaceted experiences for content and apps," he said in an email. "They will provide publishing and retail platforms for digital content and they will offer services to store user generated content. In the long run, they will all offer developer services such as back-end cloud platforms to leverage the developer end-to-end opportunity for services."

Google Play will allow users to store up to 20,000 of their own songs for free. Apple allows iCloud users to upload up to 25,000 songs but charges $25 annually if any of those songs were not purchased through iTunes.

Google says that starting today, Tuesday, it will be discounting a different album, book, video rental and Android app every day for the next week as part of its "7 Days to Play" sale.

Windows is currently a nobody in the tablet market. That could change with the release of Windows 8, the first version designed for touch screens and the tablet form factor. With the new Metro user interface, Microsoft will try to serve both tablet and desktop markets. Can it succeed? Find out at our Byte webcast, What Impact Will Windows 8 Have On The Tablet Market?. It happens March 14. (Free registration required.)

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