• AppStore a la Google - Android Market is Official

    Remember Android? Google’s messiah OS for mobile phones, the one whom the prophecies foretold? Well, its still around - in fact, the first Android phone is rumored to be hitting the streets via T-Mobile on October 13th.

    In an unsurprising move, Thursday Google announced Android Market, essentially AppStore for Android. According to the Android guys, “...developers can expect the first handsets to be enabled with a beta version of Android Market. Some decisions are still being made, but at a minimum you can expect support for free (unpaid) applications. Soon after launch an update will be provided that supports download of paid content and more features such as versioning, multiple device profile support, analytics, etc.”

    The article doesn’t mention anything about developer’s having to pay to sign up - they reference the YouTube sign-up method, saying you just sign up, upload/describe, and publish. A ratings/feedback system similar to the YouTube style is also in place for Android Market.

    With the rampant success of the AppStore, and the open-source, friend-of-all feel of Android, Android Market was a given. One can assume it will easily integrate with Google Checkout (Google’s PayPal alternative) for purchasing. Google hints they’re working with their partners on the handset release in the same sentence they mention pricing - could Android Market purchases be simply added to your carrier bill as a payment option?

    Android already has hundreds of apps available, thanks to the Android Developer Challenge. I’m sure we can expect these, as well as hundreds/thousands more (can you hear all those AppStore iPhone devs fingers tapping the keyboards as they get those ports ready?) to show up in the Android Market at launch, or very soon after. The AppStore has proven to be such a success that mobile developing has been pushed to new limits. Part of that was the incredible hardware Apple included in the iPhone - but most of those specs (GPS, 3G, BlueTooth, camera, etc) are in any higher end phone these days. Apple’s success with the iPhone is in the beautiful engineering, and now, easy to access software offerings. Android Market combined with some quality hardware will entice many of the iPhone devs to get Android versions going, and Google’s OS vs hardware approach to the mobile market may just open the Android Market to an even broader range than the AppStore hits.

    It will also be interesting to see how they choose to filter the apps - again, since Google is not launching a /device/, but instead an OS, not all phones will have all features. For instance, cab4me, one of the winners of the Google ADC, uses GPS and cell-based location services - but there will probably be apps that support only GPS. If your phone doesn’t have GPS - Android Market will have to filter that app out, or be faced with tons of email support explaining why it won’t work, and customer service time getting those folks refund. No word on a required set of features in an Android phone yet - that may also be a solution, having the handset makers agree to a standard minimum set of features on any Android handset.

    Either way, Android Market could prove to be just as huge a success as the AppStore, especially with the multiple handset approach Google is taking - the Android handset saturation could be much higher with lower priced phones and a less strict carrier set-up (already 7 carriers are signed up on the Open Handset Alliance, including T-Mobile and Sprint in the US). It’s an exciting time for mobile software development, both for developer and end users - we all win.

    Android Developer's Blog
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