Eyeing Apple's digital content strategy, Google is making a stronger push for getting major publications onto smartphones and tablet computers based on the Android operating system.
The search engine is courting publishers to build versions of their publications tailored for Android mobile gadgets for a new "Google-operated digital newsstand," according to the Wall Street Journal.
Google has broached its plan, which would include taking a smaller cut than the 30 percent Apple commands for applications sales on iTunes, with Time Inc., Cond??Â« Nast and Hearst Corp., the Journal said.
Google has also suggested giving publishers personal data about application buyers, a move that, if true, is sure to give users leery of targeted advertising pause before subscribing.
Google declined to confirm the plans but didn't deny them either. The company said in a statement: "We've consistently said we're talking with publishers about ways we can work together, including whether we can help them with technology for subscription services. We have nothing specific to announce at this time."
Apple has done quite well by hawking digital magazines and newspapers tailored for consumption on its popular iPad tablet computer and iPhones through its iTunes store. The Wall Street Journal iPad application, for example, sells for $3.99 per week.
Even as Google's newsstand plans remain a glimmer in the company's eye, Apple's success has triggered moves from digital-content rivals.
Amazon.com began allowing customers to read periodicals for its Kindle e-readers on Kindle applications for Android devices. Barnes & Noble has started selling digital magazines and newspapers for its Nook Color e-reader.
There is a legitimate need for a digital newsstand for Android devices, where perusing daily and weekly content has been a chore.
That's true even on the 7-inch-screen Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet and the Motorola Droid X and HTC Evo 4G smartphones, which feature 4.3-inch screens for better media consumption.
The prospect of a Google Android newsstand is intriguing for other reasons. For one, it provides a periodical complement to the Google eBookstore that the company launched last month, with 3 million free and paid book titles. Google eBooks competes with Apple's iBookstore and Amazon's Kindle store.
Additionally, a Google Android newsstand would enable Google to use its Fast Flip content experience more fully. It had been relegated to sidebar status on Google News.
Launched in September 2009, Fast Flip is designed to make the news Web browsing more like the way readers turn the pages of print newspapers and magazines. Such a user interface would provide quite a nice reading experience on a tablet computer.
It's important for Google to address the Android tablet market, which is set for major growth in 2011. While the Tab has been the most high-profile Android machine of its kind to date, Motorola, Toshiba and others are expected to deliver Android tablets next year.