It's all about the apps. Concurrent with the launch of the T-Mobile G1 Android-based mobile phone today, Google is launching Android Market. Conceptually, the one-two combination of the Android operating system and Android Market takes aim at Apple's iPhone operating system coupled with its App Store.
(Because of a ill-timed software change, Android Market launched with only about 13 applications available, down from an expected 50 or 60.)
But the concept of applications for mobile devices is not new. Palm built its loyal following early on thanks in part to the large selection of applications available for its handheld platform. Today apps still play a major role in winning customer loyalty. BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile all offer apps for their respected mobile operating systems.
Apple, Android Market Do Apps Differently
Several points separate Android--and Apple's App Store--from the previous attempts at mobile applications. By having a central repository for applications, consumers can more easily locate apps they seek. And with 3G mobile broadband and operating systems that actively support over-the-air installations, consumers can add apps anytime, from anywhere. In contrast, Palm, for example, rarely allowed apps to be installed directly; instead, users had to sync their device with a desktop.
Will Android Market be Safe?
Android Market goes further than Apple's App Store, though. Where Apple serves as an intermediary for its App Store, and all apps must be approved by Apple before they can be posted to the store, Android Market will be a completely open model. (Here is a look at 15 Android apps.)
"It's called Market, not a store, so developers can reach consumers directly, with no middleman," says Android co-founder and Google group manager for mobile platforms Rich Miner. "Developers have to fill out a form and apply, and that will vet that it's a person [posting the app]. Developers have to understand the terms of service.
No permission is needed from a carrier or from Google to sell [or offer] an application."
All applications offered on Market will be free through the end of the year. Google has not discussed details about profit sharing with those who eventually sell apps. Neither will Google reveal any future costs of apps.