I/O bits: Google Play gets HBO Now; YouTube to become 'VR hub'

Consumers using Android devices or Chromecast who felt left out when HBO debuted its new over-the-top service exclusively on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS platform now can join the Game of Thrones streaming club. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced during its I/O conference that HBO Now will be available this summer through Cast on Android and via web browsers.

The service, along with plain vanilla HBO, will also be available on Google's Android TV program at some point in the near future.

Availability of HBO Now on the Google Play store likely will happen at the end of June or early July. That's because HBO signed a three-month exclusivity deal with Apple. The OTT service launched on Apple TV and iOS devices like smartphones and tablets on April 7.

The announcement by Sundar Pichai, SVP of products, was just a small part of I/O's opening keynote and generated less chatter than some of the other news that dropped around Google's next platform version, Android M, its Photos storage service, its Loon flying broadband initiative (seriously, check this out), and more.

Google is also updating the Play Store's interface, with Ellie Powers, lead product manager, telling attendees that the company has improved its search function to making locating apps easier. Google Play will also add a "family star" to content, which lets users know an app, movie, book or other item is safe for kids to watch or use.

Additionally, Google appears to be going all-in on virtual reality. Clay Bavor, VP of product management at Google, told attendees that later this summer, YouTube will support virtual reality (VR) videos that have been shot on Jump camera rigs. The rig was developed by Google and uses 16 off-the-shelf cameras to shoot 360-degree video. GoPro will sell a version of the Jump rig to the general public this summer as well--a convenient way to get people to make more VR videos and post them on YouTube.

For more:
- TechnoBuffalo has this story
- The Wall Street Journal is live-blogging the event

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