Android Market: Tear Down This Wall!

Android Needs a Solid App Market, But Can Android Market Meet the Need?

Perhaps the weakest link in the Android chain is the Android Market. Frankly, it is uninspiring: limited searching, limited descriptions, limited dialogue between developers and customers, limited customer service to developers from the Market managers. Moreover, since it is proprietary and closed up tight as a clamshell, there is no effective way for the community to help make the Market better. Yet, we need a powerful app market for Android to be a long-term success.Compounding this is the apparently slow uptake of existing competing markets, like AndAppStore and SlideME. While these competitors may be functionally superior to the Android Market, they lack one key ingredient: distribution. The OEM deals that Google has struck with HTC (and perhaps others) means that the Android Market is distributed on millions of handsets. That is quite the mountain for an independent third party market to climb.Yet, something has to be done. Soon, the quality of the app market will be a key distinguishing factor of platforms. The iPhone App Store, while it has some warts, is better, and everybody else is rushing out markets of their own. It is not out of the question that Android Market could find itself in last place, dragging down Android's momentum.What is not completely clear is why the Android Market is uninspiring. My guess is a lack of funding, leading to a lack of staff. But, that is merely a guess.So, in all likelihood, two things need to happen to get the Android Market in a position of preeminence.First, it needs a credible competitor. That competitor:

  • Needs to have OEM deals of its own, so it gets distributed on millions of handsets, attracting both developers and users
  • Needs to be demonstrably better “out of the box”, in terms of both user experience and developer experience
  • Needs to be available (via independent download) for devices other than the ones for which it is bundled via an OEM arrangement – otherwise, it is not a true competitor, other than in the fight over OEM deals

With luck, competition will force some amount of change. Worst-case, the change is merely fixes to the existing Market. The best-case scenario, though, is the carrot: open up the Market and let the ecosystem help make it better.One simple REST API and third parties could:

This is the stick: having Android Market be trumped by something that could, in principle, replace it as the #1 place from which to get Android apps.

  • Provide alternative Android clients for the Market, ones that perhaps integrate other features (e.g., tweet about an app you rated highly or poorly) and provide a better user experience
  • Provide promotional avenues outside the clients to help developers' apps be found (Web, feeds, etc.)
  • Allow users who find apps through other means to “push” their apps to their device, much like you can make a one-click Kindle purchase and have your new book show up automatically
  • Allow for “omnibus” clients that pull apps from multiple listing services (e.g., Android Market and AndAppStore and...), to provide interested users better “one-stop shopping” for their Android apps.

Conversely, none of this is possible with a Market that is hunkered down behind a wall in some sort of defensive posture, trying to meet the base standards for a Market and little else, hampered by resource constraints or whatever.Mr. Rubin: tear down this wall!

In all likelihood, Google could not afford to develop all the things the ecosystem might.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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