Google Inc. unveiled its answer to Apple Inc.’s App Store, outlining a distribution system for applications built on its Android platform.
Android Market will serve as an unrestricted storefront where registered developers can offer their wares simply by uploading their applications and posting descriptions. Google said it will also provide a dashboard and analytics to help developers tweak their applications to find broader audiences.
“We chose the term ‘market’ rather than ‘store’ because we feel that developers should have an open and unobstructed environment to make their content available,” Eric Chu posted on Android’s developers blog in a swipe at the App Store. “Developers will be able to make their content available on an open service hosted by Google that features a feedback and rating system similar to YouTube.”
The marketplace will support only free applications at launch, Chu wrote, but will soon be expanded to support paid downloads and include features such as multiple device profile support and versioning. Like the App Store – which leverages Apple’s broad iTunes footprint – Android Market may help the smartphone-application space move beyond early adopters and into mass-market users.
“This is another great example of how smartphone content is transforming the wireless industry and giving customers more choice in what they want to do with their devices,” said Bill Stone, CEO of Handango, a longtime distributor of applications for high-end devices of all platform types.
But while the unencumbered nature of Android Market could please developers, Google is gambling that consumers won’t hold it responsible for ill-conceived applications or potentially offensive content. Apple – which has taken a more aggressive approach in managing offerings in its App Store – has already drawn the ire of both consumers and developers as it tries to strike a balance between protecting users and offering a wide variety of content. The company opted to drop a controversial $1,000 application that did nothing but illuminate the screen in a read hue after at least one customer complained about the price, and earlier this week Apple rejected a gory comic strip from an Irish publisher, infuriating developers seeking a less restrictive marketplace.