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Should a Google Play Branded Device Be Next for Google? [Opinion]

When Google chopped the Android Market off at the knees to unveil their new all-in-one media store dubbed Google Play, most people’s initial reaction was not all that favorable. In fact, “confused” is probably not even close to being the appropriate word to describe the way most Android fans felt. I argued that it made sense in the big scheme of things as Google likely wanted to draw away from the idea that their music, movie and book stores were tied to Android devices and instead show the world that they were available to everyone. While the name choice is still a bit puzzling, I do think it was the right move if Google plans to not only break into the tablet market with Android, but also to be more than just the “other smartphone OS for geeks.”  

When we talk about Apple products and iOS as a successful platform, up until this latest iPad, it wasn’t ever really about specs. Instead, it has always been about the ecosystem – more amazing apps than any other platform, massive music/movie/TV stores, and an OS that was easy for anyone to grasp on a variety of devices. It’s like an all-inclusive resort for mobile products. Your iPhone plays with your Apple TV which syncs with your iPad which is about to sync flawlessly with your iMac or Macbook once it sees Mountain Lion. It’s a suite of products that all work together

The Kindle Fire, it’s essentially the same thing. Ask anyone with a Fire if they know the operating system that it runs. I’d be willing to bet that 9 out of 10 have no idea that it is Android. You see, Amazon took Android, customized the hell out of it, dropped their own Amazon-branded app store on it, and created a similar all-in-one ecosystem to Apple’s that appears as their own. It’s apps, music, movies and a polished tablet UI together as one. Users of devices like this do not necessarily care what OS version or processor is in them, they care about the brand, the way it is presented to them, and ease of use.

With Android in general, there always seems to have been a disconnect in the ecosystem. There were once two separate operating systems for tablets and phones, some apps worked here while they wouldn’t work over there, Google’s other products like Chrome were at one time kept separate, and the music/movie/book stores were added on so much later that many haven’t yet fully adopted them as their go-to services. And were these Android specific or do I consume them from other outlets like my PC? Are they a part of Android or do they stand on their own?

So what does that have to do with Google Play? Think about it. Google Play is the new ecosystem for Google’s media products. Google has realized that in order to take this sector over the top, that they need to dip into the successful strategies of Apple and Amazon. Make their products about media, ease of use, and the Google brand rather than about subtle differences in specs or versions of Android. Google has essentially admitted that they are moving in this direction. Their product manager Punit Soni spoke just last week of a unified gaming experience from Google, meaning that you won’t have separate games for Google+, Chrome and Android and that they will all just be “Google Games.”

Sure, Android and its latest version still needs to be talked about as new features are introduced, but make it about those features and the experience they create rather than the version number, something they actually started to do with Ice Cream Sandwich. When Apple announces a new product, their commercials don’t brag about iOS 5.2, they talk about the new features that come in the software of the latest hardware release from them that you can’t live without. And I couldn’t even tell you what OS version the Kindle Fire is running at this point, but I know that my wife can’t put it down and consumes almost more media than I do away from a computer.

If they create the brand that users can go to for their media needs and an ecosystem that encompasses everything mobile and beyond (to TVs and to home), but without the confusion, how can they lose? Downplay Android, bring to light the fact that it’s Google? And why not release a device with this branding front and center. There has been enough talk about Google entering the hardware business that it wouldn’t surprise me if you started to see Google Play branded products.

“What’s that phone you’ve got there?” – “Oh it’s the Google Play phone.”

Something to think about.

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