Google's Android Taking Off, Will App Explosion Follow?


Google's Android operating system is on a roll. Earlier this week, the search giant announced an alliance with Verizon Wireless that includes the launch of two Android phones this year with plans to develop other Android-powered devices in the future.

Dell is reportedly coming out with an Android smartphone next year on the AT&T network and Sprint's new Android phone-the HTC Hero-debuts this Saturday. That's not to mention the recent launch of other forth coming Android phones such as the Motorola Cliq, launching in November, and the Samsung Moment, announced Wednesday at the CTIA Fall 2009 conference in San Diego.



So Android is gaining momentum, both literally and figuratively. Growing distribution for the operating system across carriers and handsets should benefit the Android Market, Google's app storefront. The more Android phones and users there are, the more demand there should be for Android apps, which now number about 10,000. That's far fewer than the Apple's App Store for the iPhone, but not insignificant.

With the recent launch of Android 1.6, Google also took steps to upgrade Android Market, including letting developers provide screenshots, icons and more detailed app descriptions to better showcase their wares.

But sprucing up Android Market won't make up for the lack of a convenient, established payment system like iTunes, which the App Store is built on. "The familiarity and affinity millions of people have developed over the years with iTunes, and iTunes' seamless payment system is what will keep iTunes ahead in terms of attracting masses of apps and downloads," noted Lilly Gold, founder of app developer IntuApps in New York.

IntuApps cofounder Ronnie Schwartz added Android Market is also hampered by the perception that all apps in the store are free because Android is an open source platform. "Apple [App Store] is the only one where people actually buy stuff," he said. "I think developers are dabbling in other platforms, but iPhone is where they see their main focus."

With Android running across different devices and carrier networks, CNet's Marguerite Reardon also raised a question about weather apps will work on different types of hardware. "If they do, they could drive more Android device development, which could lead to the Android mobile platform actually living up to the hype that was promised nearly two years ago," she wrote.

The bottom line is that more Android phones in consumers' hands should lead to more apps for the platform, but big hurdles remain for Google in challenging Apple's dominance in apps.

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