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商业 - 科技

在搜索之外,谷歌已经有了另一项快速增长的业务

JP Mangalindan 2014年07月22日

谷歌在线广告业务的增长放缓不可避免,要抵消这一不利影响,关键在于寻找新的收入来源。而通过旗下应用商店Google Play销售应用程序、电视节目、电子书、音乐以及游戏,已成为谷歌的一项重要业务。

    在五年的时间里,谷歌应用商店Google Play已从新兴手机应用市场成长为大型媒体中心。

    上周四,在谷歌(Google)第二季度收益电话会议中,即将离职的谷歌首席商务官尼科什•阿罗拉表示。除应用外,Google Play现在还向全球10亿多Android手机和平板用户销售数字电影、电视剧和音乐。

    阿罗拉称,Google Play平台“仍在飞速发展”。

    谷歌并未公布Google Play的具体业绩。但该业务的销售额一直稳步增长,现已成为谷歌的第二大收入来源,仅次于该公司一直以来最赚钱的广告业务。

    谷歌在线广告业务的增长放缓不可避免,要抵消这一不利影响,关键在于寻找新的收入来源。而销售针对移动设备的应用程序和娱乐产品,不仅能令华尔街的投资者满意,同时也能增加谷歌操作系统对消费者以及设备制造商的吸引力。

    花旗集团(Citigroup)分析师马克•梅预测,到2017年,Google Play的年收入将从2013年的13亿美元增至52亿美元。相比苹果去年公布的iTunes的100亿美元销售额,Google Play可谓相形见绌。但不可否认的是,Android的发展势头十分强劲。

    据国际数据公司称,全球智能手机用户中,近80%的人拥有Android设备,这个比例比三年前翻了一倍。而苹果iPhone的市场占有率为15%。

    Android取得这一成绩实属不易,因为它常被人指责品质和统一性不如苹果操作系统。Android的优势在于,手机制造商能根据自身需要对其进行定制,亚马逊(Amazon)即将推出的Fire手机以及宏达电(HTC)的“Sense”软件都利用了这一点。

    然而,Android的开放性也带来一些问题,因为有上百成千款手机采用不同版本的Android,这种情况被称为“碎片化”。某些Android版本的用户无法与其他用户一样快速升级自己的手机软件。由于碎片化问题,有科技作家称Android的安全性“一塌糊涂”。

    但这样的嘲讽和挑战也将无法阻止Android操作系统在全球手机市场上攻城略地。Google Play成为谷歌重要的收入来源也证实了这一点。

    Google Play的成长过程颇为曲折。2008年,谷歌推出名为Android Market的应用程序商店。2012年,Android Market与谷歌音乐合并,并更名Google Play。

    截止今年6月份,Google Play平台上有150万个应用程序,超过了苹果应用程序商店中的120万。在娱乐方面,用户可在广阔的Google Play平台上租赁或购买新近上映的电影、电视节目、畅销电子图书、期刊和音乐。Google Play的目标很明确:让Android用户无论身在何处,都能通过该平台访问尽可能多的数字内容,包括迪士尼(Disney)的《冰雪奇缘》(Frozen)、乔治•马丁的《权力的游戏》(Game of Thrones)以及洛德横扫各大排行榜的《天生英雄》(Pure Heroine)专辑。

    In five years, Google Play has gone from being an upstart marketplace for mobile phone apps to a mammoth media hub.

    On Thursday’s second-quarter earnings call, Google’s outgoing Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora all-but-said as much. In addition to apps, it now sells now sells digital movies, TV shows and music to the more than one billion people worldwide who own Android phones and tablets.

    It “continues to grow at breakneck speed,” Arora said on the call.

    Google doesn’t break out numbers for just how well Google Play is doing. But sales have steadily grown into the second largest source of revenues behind the company’s long-standing cash cow, advertising.

    Finding alternative sources of revenue is critical to Google as it tries to offset the inevitable slowing growth in its online ad business. Selling apps and entertainment for mobile device can be an important way to keep Wall Street investors happy along with making its operating system more attractive to consumers and device manufacturers.

    Citigroup analyst Mark May predicts Google Play’s annual revenues will grow from $1.3 billion in 2013 to $5.2 billion in 2017. Those figures remain a fraction of the $10 billion in iTunes sales Apple reported last year, but Android’s momentum is undeniable.

    Nearly four out of five smartphone owners worldwide have an Android device – twice the market share Android had three years ago – according to IDC. Apple’s iPhone, meanwhile, has a 15% market share.

    That’s seriously impressive for an operating system some have criticized for being less polished and unified than Apple’s. Android’s strengths have been its ability to be customized by phone makers – something that Amazon , with its forthcoming Fire Phone, and HTC with its “Sense” software – have tried to take advantage of.

    But that same “open” nature breeds complications because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different phones, using different variations of Android, a situation referred to as “fragmentation.” Users of some versions of Android can’t upgrade their phone’s software at the same speed other users can. It’s because of fragmentation that Android security remains what one tech writer colorfully called a “toxic hellstew.”

    But such quirks and challenges will do little to block Android from steamrolling mobile around the world. And Google Play’s rise as a serious source of revenue for Google is just more evidence of that.

    Google Play’s chronology is a bit convoluted. It launched in 2008 as an app store called Android Market. In 2012, it merged with Google Music and was renamed Google Play.

    The Play store had 1.5 million apps available as of June, more than the 1.2 million offered by Apple’s own App Store. In terms of entertainment, the sprawling marketplace offers many recent movie releases and TV episodes for rental or purchase, bestselling e-books, periodicals and music. The goal is obvious: Android users should be able to access as much of their digital content as possible from the Play Store wherever they are, tapping and swiping among Disney’s Frozen, George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones or Lorde’s chart-smashing Pure Heroine album on a dime.

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