Google Play seen as pivotal to success of Nexus 7

Google rolls out app developer console, urges creation of more tablet-based apps

Central to the success of Google's Nexus 7 tablet, the Nexus Q media player and other Android ventures is Google Play, formerly called Android Market.

With 400,000 Android apps and 20 billion downloads so far, the cloud-based Google Play content service will now allow customers to buy movies and TV episodes, Google said Wednesday. Customers can already purchase books from a selection of millions of titles.

Analysts said the success of the Nexus 7 tablet will depend on Google's ability to bring users to its content and apps, through Google Play. The Nexus 7 "is built for Google Play," said Hugo Barra, Google's product management director for Android, during its unveiling at Google I/O. The Nexus Q spherical media hub, also based on Android, will distribute such music and video content around a user's home.

Google lags behind Amazon and Apple in extending online content to customers, said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research, and others.

The range of Google Play content and services and YouTube videos "will be the secret to stitching together a rag-tag fleet of Android gadgets into a platform that can compete with Apple for minutes of users' attention," added James McQuivey, another Forrester analyst.

One session at Google I/O on Wednesday was devoted to explaining new tools and marketing strategies to app developers, who are critical to the success of Google Play.

New console for developers

Chris Yerga, Google's engineering director for Google Play, introduced a new developer console, available in limited beta, to help developers build apps for the content service.

One new capability that will come later to the console will allow developers to see how their Android apps are selling across various devices, including Android smartphones from different manufacturers and the Nexus 7 tablet, Google said. Some Android developers have built hundreds or even thousands of Android apps, putting a high demand on such monitoring and management tools.

One feature of the Google Play console allows developers to monitor customer reviews of their apps in graphical form under the mischievous heading of "Count Graphula, the Counter."

Yerga also urged developers to consider ways to build apps for tablets, not just Android phones, to take advantage of a tablet's larger screen and video and graphics abilities.

"A lot of Android tablets will be sold and we just released a killer one," Yerga said, referring to the Nexus 7. "Tablet users don't just want a phone app on a tablet, so think how to optimize apps."

Mint.com, which makes money management apps, found that tablet users spend 25% more time on an app than smartphone users do. Tablet users also engage those apps later in the day, while smartphone users peak in their usage around lunchtime, Yerga said.

"Build immersive tablet-first features and offer new app features not present on the phone, because tablet users are in a mode where they are willing to deeply engage," Yerga suggested to developers.

Yerga also urged developers to market their apps through video by relying on the free resources of YouTube. Using the example of Smule, the maker of Songify, Magic Piano and Ocarina apps for turning a smartphone into a musical instrument, he described the impact of one short YouTube video promotion featuring musician Jimmy Wong.

Customers who acquired Smule apps through a link in the video promotion ended up using the apps more than other users, Yerga said. The reason they used the app more often is because users learned how to use the app by watching the video, he said.

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