Google Play offers entertainment from a single source in the cloud

Available basically for free (with charges for some services and content), Google recently rolled out the public release of Google Play (play.google.com), which integrates movies, music, apps, games and books under a single banner. One interesting feature of Google Play is its “Play Anywhere” feature, where the user can access content from any Internet connected device including computers, tablets, smart phones, compatible video games, Internet connected televisions, and other devices. According to Google, Play puts “all your entertainment in one place.” Using Google Play as a single source for content, the user has access to “ ... over 450,000 apps, millions of songs and books, and thousands of movies.” Almost all items in Play can be sampled for free, as well as free access to ratings, reviews, screenshots, and movie trailers.

Google Play utilizes the latest in cloud computing, where computing is used as a service, rather than a product. In cloud computing, a process mastered by Google, and resources, software, and information are shared and provided to computers and other devices over a network (typically the Internet), rather than being installed on individual computers. In non geek-speak, this means that subscribers to Google Play (basic subscription is free with a common Google registration and logon) can access any of their entertainment anywhere they have Internet access, using any Internet capable device. Some examples cited by Google include new books purchased through Google Play, similar to the way they are purchased for reading on Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and other commercial reader devices. The books purchased on Google Play can be read interchangeably on an Android phone or tablet, and then on any Internet connected computer or other device using any operating system and browser; no special software is required, and no syncing of devices is necessary. This means that if a book is being read on a tablet and then bookmarked, when accessed later on any compatible device such as a home computer, the reader picks up precisely at the bookmark, without the need to synch or otherwise connect the devices. The same applies to movies rented on Play; they can be rented on one device and played on any other compatible device, including smart phones and other computers. It is no different for music albums; purchased through Play, they can be played at home, work, or anywhere there is a compatible device, regardless of the type of device used for the initial purchase. Using Google’s free cloud service and Play, the purchased or rented content is available anywhere there is Internet access, without any required special or proprietary software.

Google Play also integrates a degree of social networking where information, comments, evaluations, and content may be exchanged using Google’s social networking service Google +, e-mail, and text messaging. Much of the content, including music, books and apps, can be shared using Google Play and Google +, where friends (circles on Google +) can discuss and chat about the different modes of entertainment. Music purchased on Google Play can be shared with friends on Google +, giving them a “free listen” (Google Play’s term), and any music that your friends purchased on Play can likewise be shared with you, giving you a “free listen.”

 While Google Play has a massive library of millions of books, movies, music albums and tracks, and apps for sale, there is also a huge library of content that is totally free to registered users. Any and all content, either purchased or free, is automatically stored in the cloud in the user’s personal library, and can be accessed anywhere by computer, Android smart phone, tablet, or other device with Internet access. The content of the personal music library cannot just be streamed over the Internet to the user, but can also be “pinned” to a mobile device for offline playback in circumstances where the user is not online, or does not otherwise have Internet access at that time or place.

It is common for many users to have large, existing music libraries with content from sources other than Google Play; that is not a problem, as Google Play offers free cloud (online) storage for up to 20,000 songs already owned by the user. This personal music collection can be organized in the cloud along with the content obtained from Google Play into a single library accessible anywhere and anytime with Internet access via the cloud. This free storage of personally owned music can also be used as a backup, freeing up storage space on the user’s computer, or otherwise having redundant copies of a valuable collection.

As is done with music on Google Play, any books, free or paid, added to the Google Play library are available to any connected device without any special software and include dynamic bookmarking without the need to synch between devices, as the bookmark information is stored with the digital books in the user’s Play account in the cloud. Since people enjoy reading in places without good Internet access, such as on a commercial flight, Google Play provides for offline reading where the content can be stored on a device for access while offline. With interactive and automatic bookmarking, the user can start reading a book on one connected device, continue reading offline on another device, and then read more later while online, each time picking up precisely where the reader left off on the previous device, without the need for any manual synching between devices. One nice feature of reading using Google Play is that the reader has complete control over the appearance of the text including brightness and contrast, day or night mode, landscape or portrait orientation, font, text size, line height, and other appearance features.

Google is rightfully proud of its Android operating system, immensely popular on smart phones, tablets and other devices, as well as giving Apple and Microsoft some much needed competition. Google Play offers over 450,000 Android apps and games, as well as live wallpapers, ringtones, widgets, and other devices. It is no surprise that by utilizing Play, Android devices develop into comprehensive entertainment systems, portable computers and organizers.

Google Play integrates thousands of full-length movies, including the latest releases of movies in HD and other new releases, as well as thousands of classics. Google Play offers thousands of movies for rent that can be viewed instantly via Google play on the Web, or downloaded for later viewing using the Google Play Movie app. No different than the other forms of entertainment utilizing Google Play, movies can be viewed at home, in flight, or anywhere using any compatible device, including smart phones, tablets, or computers with Internet access. There have already been some articles published about connecting Google Play through a variety of devices streaming to a flat screen TV, and several manufacturers are already offering Internet connected televisions that can directly utilize Google Play as an entertainment source.

Listen to Ira Wilsker’s weekly radio show on Mondays from 6-7 p.m. on KLVI 560AM.

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