Google takes on iTunes store with Google Play

Google has finally created the last missing piece that it needs to compete with Apple in the digital content retail space: a unified store for all forms of digital entertainment.

Dubbed Google Play, the new store will combine Google's previous efforts at selling digital content, such as the Android Market and Google Music, into a one-stop shop for mobile apps, books, movies and music. The new store uses Google's cloud capabilities to automatically sync up any purchases you make over Google Play on all your Android devices. So if you buy a game such as "Fruit Ninja" on your desktop computer, it will automatically be available for you to play on your Android smartphone or tablet. Similarly, any songs purchased over Google Play will be available on any Android-based devices you own.

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BACKGROUND: Report: Google building home-entertainment system

The new Google Play store allows you to store a limited amount of content on the Google cloud for free, such as 20,000 of your own songs. The store also lets users rent movies to watch on their Android-based devices, similar to Netflix's digital subscription scheme. Additionally, any content you purchase directly from Google Play, whether it's as small as a single song or as large as an HD movie, automatically gets stored for free on Google's cloud.

Google's decision to consolidate all of its digital entertainment stores into a single hub fits in with the company's recent decision to consolidate its services' privacy policies and thus allow for different services to share user data with one another for the purpose of creating better-targeted advertisements. It also meshes with a report by The Wall Street Journal earlier this year suggesting that Google was building its own home entertainment system that would stream content through a central hub to any number of devices in a user's house, whether it's a tablet, personal computer, stereo or television set.

Additionally, Google has continued to refine and promote its Google TV platform, with big-name television vendors Sony and LG both announcing in recent months that they would be developing solutions for Google TV. At the Consumer Electronics Show this year, Sony showed off its Google TV-based Network Media Play set-top box while LG showed off its own HDTV with Google TV fully integrated.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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