Android Market Integration – Do You Still Care?

In the mobile phone world, content management systems to allow users to download a variety of monetizable content and (largely J2ME based) applications have been around for more than a decade. Of course, the popularity of the iPhone and its associated AppStore have put a special spotlight on the importance of having a well-stocked offering to personalize a mobile device with, well, anything looking like a software application that you could possibly imagine you ever needed to have access to on a device that primarily lives in your pocket or purse.

 

One of the main developments during the last couple of years is that the aspect of ensuring API compliance and adequate performance of the mobile application with the underlying OS/virtual machine/execution environment, which previously was largely hidden because it was operator managed, has become a hotly discussed area. This is creating much friction between application developers, handset manufacturers, system integrators, operators and the OS gate keeper to the market place. In the case of the iPhone and Android, this responsibility is now largely assumed by Apple and Google respectively.

 

In particular, Android device compliance and getting access to the vaunted “With Google” label was often directly associated with getting ‘Android market’ access.

 

Well, it seems that manufacturers bringing out Android devices increasingly stopped caring.

 

Consider this:

1) A series of established service providers to the mobile industry such as Cellmania, True North and Arvato have announced Android application management services, either to act as an enabler to ensure app compliance prior to loading them onto an operator’s content management system or to add Android .apk distribution capabilities to their hosted offering. In some cases, this is driven by a perceived lack of Android market support to integrate with highly custom pre-paid and no contract rating and billing systems. In other cases, the point is simply made that it is more efficient to aggregate all content types for all phone operating systems in one repository.

 

2) There is a whole new ecosystem of CE and other non-phone devices types (we at Wind River call them ‘embedded Android devices’) that contain Android and associated branding, alas, there is no Android market place. The upcoming Archos 7 Home tablet (http://www.engadget.com/2010/05/06/archos-7-home-tablet-ships-to-android-lovers-in-june/) is an example for such a device; go to smaller Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese consumer electronics manufacturers and you will find a whole slew of Android powered consumer electronics devices without the Android market.

 

So, unlike the iPhone OS or other mobile operating systems like BREW, the importance of market access for Android as a catalyst, carrot or big stick to ensure device compliance seems to have met a real world reality check. In their frantic adoption of Android, device makers are increasingly and skillfully using all of the benefits of Android without caring about its application market and the ‘With Google’ label.

 

And, as evidenced during my visit to the back alleys of Shenzen/China, don’t be surprised to see more devices sporting a ‘With Coogle’ mark ;-) .

3 Comments

  1. Mike Demler

    Good post! This is a topic that I have also been focusing on recently.
    I think that the “Do You Still Care?” question should be directed at Google and the OHA members, as well as the rapidly growing number of non-member CE manufacturers who are building Android-based products. Google obviously has interests in Android beyond smartphones, so I do expect some expansion of the Android Market. I think that the CE companies should care, because fragmentation causes consumer confusion. My own opinion is that Google should give up control of the application market to an industry group, thereby preserving one (primary) central repository that will foster further growth in the ecosystem.

  2. Chris Buerger

    Interesting notion about outsourcing the management of the Android market to an entity outside Google. I do believe that it would have to be an organization with a commercial interest to manage the (significant) workload associated with further developing (e.g. post-paid operator billing) and maintaining the service. There needs to be profit motive to make this work.
    With regard to whether CE companies should care – sure, they SHOULD. However, the reality is that the CE space is incredibly competitive – in terms of price, market share and time to market. At the moment, these primary success drivers seem to outweigh any potential negative impact resulting from the ‘real world fragmentation’ that is effectively happening today.

  3. Scott Sawyer

    Wow, good post. And the first comment was actually thoughtful.
    I agree that a fractured market place hurts the platform as well as the consumer. After using Windows mobile for years, I have enjoyed having the Android market. No more scouring the internet for useful apps. However, it seems most of the apps are very limited in their functionality, performing only a basic function. As a result, the appeal of the market is diminished. How many Twitter apps are really necessary? Some of the better apps are harder to find in the market. So, is there room for competing markets? I think so. Do I care about ‘with Google’, I think so.

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