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 ;-).