If there’s one thing the Google TV launch solidified, it’s that the king of search doesn’t have enough content (though I love the Kevin Bacon commercial). Same thing goes for Android phones. For all of its whiz-bang features, the latest Gingerbread OS is stale when it comes to offering premium video, music, and books out of the box. At the same time, industry watchers argue that Android phone owners have shied away from paid apps in the Android market because they don’t want to sign up for a Google Checkout account. What Google needs to compete with iTunes and iOS is a one-stop shop for content and one-click checkouts. That’s why it needs to strike a deal with Amazon.
When Google CEO Eric Schmidt was asked recently if he would consider acquisitions of web video companies, he said “You never say never. We’ve tried to not cross that line.” It looks like Google may have to. YouTube continues to be extremely popular, but Google has not moved quickly enough to offer movies and TV shows on demand through this medium.
A recently rumored deal for Next New Networks would certainly help Google provide more original, viral content, but it’s not really the kind of stuff its customers are willing to pay for. Amazon already has a vast library of TV shows and movies ready to order on demand, though it has yet to make the leap to mobile. Google could certainly help speed that along.
On the music front, we’ve been hearing rumors of a Google-branded service for ages. And just this week there were reports that Google is forking over big wads of cash to the record labels to get its Music Locker service off the ground. The idea is that users would be able to stream any music they own over the cloud to practically any connected device for a $25 annual fee. Google also wants to sell tracks a la carte like iTunes and allow users to share music.
Google may add an all-you-eat-subscription service at a later date; apparently, a deal with the U.K.-based startup Spotify fell through. All of this seems like a lot of work when Amazon MP3 already works fine on today’s Android phones (though the interface could certainly use polishing). Wouldn’t it be easier to add these features to Amazon’s existing service through a partnership?
Where Google now competes with Amazon is its new eBookstore, which Google positions as an open alternative to Kindle’s ecosystem. It stocks three million titles, including a fair number of bestsellers, and works with not only Android and iPhone apps but also with web browsers. Not coincidentally, Amazon recently announced that it would be launching a Kindle web app of its own. To me this competition is just silly. Just hook up, already.
Between Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Sony, the world doesn’t need another book store. Google needs—and consumers want—an iTunes alternative that makes all the content and apps we want available in one place. And Amazon would give Google just that. I’m not suggesting that Google purchase Amazon, just forge a strategic partnership where Amazon would be Google’s preferred content partner. Hulu, Netflix, Rhapsody, and other content providers would still be able to flourish on Android devices, but Google would have a single content portal that received preferential treatment.
For purchasing content—and premium apps in the Android Market—Google Checkout would get replaced by Amazon’s one-click ordering, which has millions of more customers who already have an account. When it comes to e-commerce transactions, comfort is king.
What would Amazon get out of this partnership? More sales, of course, and more customers to buy all sorts of other goods through the Amazon store. Amazon and Google could find other ways to partner, too. How about long-pressing on a product while surfing the web on an Android phone to add it to your wishlist? I could also see visitors to Amazon’s site being able to add Android apps to their cart while purchasing a tablet or phone.
Although Amazon is reportedly at work on its own Android tablet, Google needs more than a device from the maker of the Kindle. It needs to grow its ecosystem using a shortcut that’s right in front of its face. It’s called the Gamazon store.
Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP's online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark's SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter.