It's official: Android Market offers paid apps

As expected, Google announced that its Android Market, the free-for-all marketplace for all things Android, is now accepting priced applications. And that's good news both for developers, who now have a big incentive to post new applications, and for Google, whose take is a cool 30% of everything purchased via the store.

According to the Android Developers blog announcing the change, the Market's support for paid apps will be rolled out piecemeal worldwide. This week, U.S. and U.K. developers can post paid apps, while developers in Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, France and Spain will get the same capability later this quarter. And Google said additional countries will be announced by the end of Q1.

And now that developers can actually make money from their apps, the number and type of apps available via the Market should increase markedly, giving Apple and its iPhone more a run for their money. For example, consider the Apple's iPhone store, which has offered paid apps for quite a while. According to MediaPost, the iPhone store offers more than 20,000 apps and has had more than 500 million downloads to date, pulling in an estimated $200 million to $300 million for Apple. The free-app-laden Android Market, by contrast, sported just a little over 1,000 apps--hardly competitive.

The "for free" nature of the Android Market tended to dissuade would-be apps posters. According to the rules of the Market, developers couldn't just offer their app for free and then hang a price on it once the Market went for-pay. Instead, they now need to re-upload a new APK and add a price, while keeping in mind that any users who installed the free version of the app are still entitled to free upgrades at no extra charge.

That explains why the market has just 1,000 apps to date--developers were waiting until they could actually recoup their investment. Android has a long way to go to catch Apple, but perhaps now that its hurdled the paid app barrier and can offer some financial incentive for developers, it will begin to close the gap. For directions on publishing paid apps, visit the Android Market section on setting the price of applications.

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