Saturday, 24 March 2012

Why Google Play is Good News for Developers

A recent article on Zdnet claims that the re-launch of Android Market to Google Play should cause developers concern due to enforcement policies. Although I understand that there is some concern on the enforcement of guidelines, many of which were already there, I think the article misses some more important points.

The reality is that managing the brand of a store like Google Play and the interests of developers is always going to be a balancing act. That means trying to manage the needs of consumers, developers, record labels, movie studios, regulators and many other competing interests. It's no secret Google Play is changing. All things do and must if they are going to evolve and improve. A new brand, new policies, new content, better merchandising, new people. I for one joined the team only a few months ago and was at a rival, independent app store for three years before that (as CMO of GetJar). So when it comes to rival app stores and open ecosystems I've seen that side of the fence too.

The Zdent article focuses on enforcement but never makes any mention of why Google Play is good for developers.  Here are some key facts that I think developers need to take note of:

1. The Google brand is one of the most popular, well known and well loved brands by consumers around the world. By tying the store to it's strongest consumer-facing brand, Google is, in effect, committing to the store to in a larger degree than it ever has in the past. And the success of the store depends on its content and much of that content depends on developers.

2. Google Play improves on something Android Market previously had not done well: it unifies all of Google's entertainment offerings under one singular web offering: This means easier access for consumers to discover, purchase and enjoy music, movies and books. This in turn means new consumers who come in looking for music will also discover apps & games. The same can be said of books, where Google actually has the largest ebookstore with over 4M titles. A rising tide lifts all boats.

3. Google Play opens the flood gates for doing something else that had been lacking in the past: marketing the actual store. Previously, the store had only really been marketed by carriers and handset vendors. Android Market, though a good brand, was an ecosystem / developer brand. That's not in itself a bad thing but it doesn't mean much to consumers. To truly unlock the power of the web and bring consumers from around the world to the store, Google needed a global brand to market. The results are already bearing fruit. The company has already begun heavily promoting the new store using ads on the web, mobile, through partners, new videos and even, this weekend and last weekend, by a heavy presence at events like SXSW and the Ultra Music Festival.

All this is good news for developers as it drives more awareness of not just movies, music and books but also of apps and games.   Does that mean everything perfect? No. There's still lots of work to be done and undoubtedly this is just the start. Let's face it, there will always be folks who are critical of Google and what it does but it's hard to argue that bringing all this content in one place, improving the consumer experience, marrying content to the Google brand and than advertising it isn't great news for developers.

I've been speaking to developers for weeks about the change and those I've spoken to are pretty thrilled, want to continue to engage Google and provide the company with even more feedback on how to continue improving the store. If anything, all these massive changes, though difficult and painful, mean Google is listening more to developers than ever not less. And guess what? that's the beauty of an open eco system. Google has to listen. Others don't necessarily have this luxury.   Nor do they care to...