It’s Google vs Apple for digital media publishing

Just a couple of days ago, Google and Apple announced subscription based services offering publishers new possibilities to distribute digital content. Traditionally, publishers were and to a certain extent, are still reluctant to sell their content via such services. The reason is very simple; piracy, which directly hits the publishers’ income. However, the success of the Apple iTunes store proved that customers are willing to pay for digital content (music in this case) and is a reliable source income both for the publisher and Apple.

Apple’s move in this market was expected and is seen as a ‘natural’ step to progress. The iTunes store gives Apple the experience, knowledge and a platform to work on. Apple might already have the necessary leads and agreements with publishers as it already has with those in the music industry. For example, News Corporation already adopted this model and publishes The Daily journal at a rate of $1 per week or $40 per year. Apple’s major boost is its 160 million iTunes user base ready to fork out more money.

On the other hand Google has to start all from scratch with zero paid users. The Google One Pass is described as “a payment system that enables publishers to set the terms for access to their digital content. It offers purchase-once, view-anywhere functionality, so users can view the content they buy across all of their devices.” The keyword in this statement is devices which is a generic term to describe desktop computers, laptops, smart phones, tablets, TV set-top boxes (rings a bell?) and others.

So who will have the widest customer reach? Apple’s subscription service is tied to their mobile operating system iOS, whose applications are available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Apple TV (questionable). Google does not even mention Android in their statement and the impression is that the subscription service will be available to any connected and browser-enabled device.  Hence, basically Apple’s service will target its own customers whilst Google’s targets potentially anyone with a device. Google might also be throwing in some technical tricks shaped in their Labs to make the digital media more appealing to customers with the most interesting being Living Stories and Fast Flip. You can give Living Stories a try here.

There are tons of questions, which are left answered. We will be getting answers when publishers start distributing and hopefully customers start adopting. To conclude, Apple has the experience and a proven record in this market whilst Google has the technology and industry strength. All recent Apple offerings were largely successful whilst giant Google had its failures such as Buzz, Wave and Orkut to name a few. The game has been set and like any other similar situation, it will the customers who elect the winner. Microsoft did not even make it to the match and all I hope is that one year from now there won’t be some new MS service with a fancy name offering the same services as Google and Apple.