Google is ready to play.
It's creating a single destination for digital media called Google Play, putting books, music, movies and games all in one spot. It's a bid to build a powerful entertainment hub on par with Apple, Amazon.com and Microsoft.
The Internet search giant says users can store up to 20,000 songs for free and buy millions of new tracks, download more than 450,000 Android apps and games, browse ebooks and rent movies.
"We're creating this notion that the consumer has a single relationship with Google as the ecosystem for their content,” said Jamie Rosenberg, Google’s director of digital content.
The initiative brings together Google Music, Google Books and Android Market. Visitors to those sites will be redirected to a single page that features tabs for books, music, games and movies, whether they are browsing the Web on a computer, tablet or smartphone. Google Play can be reached from any browser or mobile device.
"This is a smart move to position itself as a content provider. Google now has an offering that can rival iTunes,” SearchEngineLand.com editor Danny Sullivan said.
Google, a competitor to Apple in the mobile market -- where the share of Android-powered phones by some estimates overtook iPhones last year -- is trying to catch up to Apple in selling digital media directly to consumers. Apple’s iTunes accounts for 70% of the market for digital song downloads, by one estimate. Google took the wraps off a digital music store to compete with iTunes in November.
"This is a crucial step Google had to take to keep competitive," Gartner media analyst Michael McGuire said. "Google is trying to simplify delivering to consumers something they will pay for or load onto their device. Anything Google can do to streamline that is important. Google has got more Android devices in the world, but I don't think it's paying out as much to people who create apps or content."
Google says it will offer a different album, book, video rental and Android app at a reduced price each for the next week. For example, consumers can buy "Where's My Water" for just 25 cents Tuesday.
One Android developer said Google Play would drive more sales.
“The improved look and flow will make it easier for people to find games," said Adam Flanders, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Glu Mobile Inc., a San Francisco developer of more than 30 Android games such as Stardom and Contract Killer Zombies. "That’s great for us."
With more than 450,000 applications in Google's Android app market, three times the number from a year ago, developers are grateful for anything that can help boost their visibility.
By combining Google's audience for all media, Flanders said, his company can get in front of more potential customers.
"If they’ve got more eyeballs in the store looking for all kinds of content, there’s a higher probability of people finding one of our games," Flanders said.
Google has been making aggressive moves in entertainment. It's working on a home entertainment device to be released later this year that streams music and, down the line, may stream other types of digital content such as video. Google is also working with media companies, Hollywood production companies and online video creators to come up with original programming for its online video sharing site YouTube.