Google is combining its outlets for apps, music, movies and books as a single store which is intended to be equally accessible from the Web and from Android devices.
The new name, Google Play, is intended to remind consumers that there is more on offer than just apps for Android smartphones and tablets and it isn't just for Android devices.
Being cloud based, the service is designed to allow Android users to switch between devices and pick up their entertainment where they left off. Unlike content from Apple iTunes, which is downloaded to each device, Google Play will play from the Web unless specifically told to do otherwise, which should provide a consistent experience as long as you have a good Internet connection.
Initially the Android Market was just for apps but then Google expanded it to music, movies and books, markets where Apple and Amazon have been successful.
Last October, Apple reported that more than 16 billion songs had been downloaded from its iTunes store and Amazon said in December that it now sells more digital books than print books.
Google's rebranding has to be seen as its attempt to gain its share of these markets and Google Play launches with over 450,000 apps, millions of songs and books, and thousands of movies. However, even though it may have gathered together the four strands of music, books, movies and apps it hasn't unified the territories in which they can be sold. Although Android apps are widely available, at the moment music is restricted to the US; movies and books are available in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, Japan also has movies and Australia also has books.
It is also difficult to say if having apps as part of a "supermarket" of goods is better than having a focused store. iTunes makes more money for developers, but this could be simply because of the difference between the average iOS and Android user with respect to say disposable income. Having apps on the same "shelf" as a book might result in an impulse purchase or it might simply be confusing.