Google Video Store Opens (Soonish)

As expected, Google has announced plans for a new Google Video Store allowing video purchase and rental from Google Video. Content from about 40 providers will be initially available for purchase, with the program opening to any video producer wishing to charge in the near future. Viewers can watch video using a new Google video player or download content formatted for the iPod Video and the Sony PSP. Google is also using its own version of copy protection for some programs.

"It will be an open video marketplace where consumers can buy or rent content," said Peter Chane, senior business product manager for Google Video, when explaining the new service to Search Engine Watch earlier this week. "We're adding the monetization component to video, and when we do that, we think an enormous amount of video will come online."

Google Video originally started out in June distributing its own Google Viewer, then shifted to playback to using Flash in September. Now as suspected, a downloadable Google Video Player is back. Google's bringing this out so that copy protected content can be played.

Not all content will have copy protection. It remains up to the provider to decide if they want to do this. For those that do, their content can only be viewed using the Google player.

The player is a 5MB download and works for Windows 2000 and Windows XP machines only, though Mac and Linux versions are planned. One feature of the interface is a filmstrip-style mode, where you can browse all the frames of the video as a way to jump to something of interest.

Copy protection works by the video being opened in the player and then authenticated online. Once authenticated, it can continue to be played as long as the viewer remains open.

Airplane travelers are out of luck, at the moment. Authentication can't be saved. That means if you aren't connected, you won't be able to watch the video, assuming copy protection is involved. Chane said Google hopes to come up with an offline viewing option for copy protected video in the future.

Some of the paid content won't involve copy protection, such as interviews from the Charlie Rose show. The entire archive of his shows is going to be sold at $0.99 each. They've chosen to forgo copy protection.

I asked Chane if Rose was the exception, but he said not. A surprising number of those selling content will not use copy protection, though Chane didn't give a specific breakdown, only saying it's a "mix."

Non-copy protected content can be played in the Google viewer, plus there will be links to download versions for the Apple iPod Video and the Sony PlayStation Portable. Windows Mobile users are out of luck, however. No content formatted for them will be offered. I suspect using third party tools like Nero, it will be pretty easy to transcode them, however.

I'm actually in the middle of a project to find the best way to set up video so I can play it on my iPod, PSP, Windows Mobile PDA and my Windows Mobile Smartphone. If I rip a cartoon for the kids, I want to do it once and make it work across all my devices. Keep an eye on my personal blog, and I'll share any tips along those lines in the near future.

Google might add Windows Mobile / Pocket PC formats in the future, saying it went with the iPod and PSP because it considers them the most popular gadgets for viewing video outside of a PC. Google's also looking at how they can use copy protection native to both devices, so that copy protected content can be sent to them.

Will a Google version of iTunes be coming along, in order to help users manage getting this content onto their devices? There aren't any immediate plans, Chane said.

iPod content downloads in a format to automatically let it be added to that device through iTunes. PSP content should be downloading using the peculiar naming format that the PSP requires, then Google expect PSP enthusiasts to use Sony's own tool or a third party tool for moving their content over (try PSP 9, though no programs are actually needed if you know where to drag-and-drop the files).

While Google Video is currently a keyword search tool, it is to gain an enhanced browsable interface. That's good, because with paid content, many people will know they want to drill down directly to a particular program. CBS and the National Basketball Association are two of the 40 or so initial content providers that will be offering thousands of titles. TV shows like CSI and Star Trek:Voyager are among the offerings from CBS.

Google has long said it will let anyone upload video for sale. That's "soon" to be enabled, Chane said. Content can be purchased outright or "rented" so that will can be viewed up to 24 hours after purchase. Longer periods may be added in the future, Chane said.

At launch, only those with credit cards using a US address can buy video. Google does plan to add support for those with non-US addresses in the future. Payments will be handle through the Google Accounts system, which will gain a feature to let credit card info be added. The long expected Google Wallet? No, Chane said the system wasn't going by that name.

Google's already grappled with copyrighted content being uploaded to Google Video since it launched. Gary Price, on the call with me, wondered what prevented people from uploading and selling such content. Chane said Google is continue to enhance its monitoring and those who were caught selling copyrighted video without permission would be dealt with.

Google's not alone in the online video sales space. For some alternatives and the competition, see Gary's Google Faces Plenty Of Competition In Online Video Rental & Sales Marketplace article.

Looking for the official word? See the Google press release here

Want to comment or discuss? Visit the Google area of our Search Engine Watch Forums.

Postscript: The Google Video Store was originally supposed to be live to coincide with the announcement. Google's since said that it will go up as soon as possible, with no other timeframe guidance beyond that. Watch the Google Video site, and when it's live, you'll see it there.

About the author

Danny Sullivan was the founder and editor of Search Engine Watch from June 1997 until November 2006.

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