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This file photo taken April 9, 2010, shows a Google sign at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Google said Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, it plans to hire more than 6,200 workers this year in the biggest expansion yet by the Internet's most profitable company. (Paul Sakuma/AP)
This file photo taken April 9, 2010, shows a Google sign at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Google said Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, it plans to hire more than 6,200 workers this year in the biggest expansion yet by the Internet's most profitable company. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

Google starts digital subscription service Add to ...

Google Inc. launched a service to make it easy for publishers to sell digital versions of newspapers and magazines, undercutting a similar plan launched by Apple Inc, as both tech titans battle to dominate smartphones and tablet computers.

Google announced in a blog post on Wednesday its plan to woo newspaper and magazines, a day after Apple rolled out a subscription platform for digital media sold through its iTunes app store.

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Google said its new service, dubbed One Pass, allows publishers to sell content that consumers can view on websites as well as in specialized apps designed for smart phones and tablet PCs. Publishers can charge for content in a variety of ways, including subscriptions, metered access and sales of single articles.

Google is letting publishers keep about 90 per cent of subscription revenue gained through One Pass -- a direct shot at Apple, which lets media companies collect only 70 per cent of subscription revenue from applications downloaded through iTunes.

"Our intention is to make no money on it," said Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt at an event in Berlin. "We want the publishers to make all the money."

Google's service also lets publishers provide existing print subscribers with free or discounted access to digital content, Google said.

Consumers must use the company's payment system, Google Checkout, in order to use One Pass.

On Tuesday, Apple introduced a long-awaited subscription plan for magazines, newspapers, videos, music and books that provide digital content in specialized apps for iPad and iPhone users.

The service lets consumers decide how much personal data to supply publishers when they sign up for subscriptions. Analysts have said Apple's new plan risks angering content developers.

"It's shortsighted," Forrester analyst James McQuivey wrote in a blog post. "Apple has given every publisher, producer, and distributor in the business a reason to actively pursue alternatives to the elegant apps that Apple had hitherto taught us to depend on."

One sticking point with publishers on Apple's subscription plan involves customer data. Publishers are particularly protective of subscriber data such as names, addresses and credit cards because it helps them court advertisers and market new products to existing readers.

In its blog post, Google said its service lets publishers set their own prices and terms for their content.

Google said that One Pass is currently available for publishers in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Britain and the United States.

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