There was more than meets the eye with this week’s rebranding of Android Market as Google Play.
Accompanying the new name and look is a shift in how the store is being managed. Eric Chu, who has worked on the Android team for four-and-a-half years, is stepping away from overseeing Android’s app store and is exploring other options inside Google.
Jamie Rosenberg, who has been a director of digital content for Android and was the public face for the Google Music launch, gets increased oversight for apps and games inside the store. (His title isn’t changing though.)
Rosenberg came to Google two years ago from Microsoft. Before that, he was vice president of premium services for Danger, the company that Android chief Andy Rubin co-founded and that went on to make the T-Mobile Sidekick.
Paired with the Google Play rebranding, the move shows how Google is changing the way it thinks about distributing and selling digital content on Android and the broader web. Google wants to have an online storefront that encompasses much more than apps and that isn’t just limited to Android device owners.
The internal management structure for Android Market was problematic from the start, according to a source who has worked closely with the team. Eric Chu headed up developer relations and business development while David Conway handled product management. Because there were two heads with relatively equal power, it was difficult to understand who had final say and that led to unnecessary politics.
The team behind Android’s app store also needed more resources for years. Because Rubin judges the success of Android primarily through device activations and mobile search revenue, the app store has been a secondary priority inside the group. This is even though apps are a key reason consumers might choose one type of device over another.
I interviewed Chu on-stage at the Inside Social Apps conference last year. We had talked about all the ways Google planned to improve the Android ecosystem over 2011. At the time, he said in-app billing would come out soon (which it did in March of last year) and that the store was going to find ways to give more exposure to apps (which it also did at Google’s developer conference I/O later in May).
While Android has definitely improved over the last year as a revenue source for developers (especially with the in-app billing system Chu rolled out publicly in March), it still causes frustration for some. This past week, indie developer Mika Mobile said it would stop supporting Android because the revenues didn’t make up for the complexity of developing for such a fragmented ecosystem with many devices and versions of the OS.