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The Android Market is the weakest point of Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android strategy. It's a weak imitation of the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) App Store, devoid of the clever search and organization finesse one would expect from an information expert like Google. Developers often have a hard time getting their apps in front of their customers; end users have trouble finding the apps they actually want.
If Google doesn't fix this big problem, maybe somebody else will. Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) is reportedly working on a third-party Android app store. Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) is supposedly working up its own version. If one of these alternatives turns out to be easier to use than the original Google-backed marketplace, it stands to reason that users would quickly jump ship to the better solution. Google won't stop us, because that would be against the open-source philosophy behind the whole Android platform.
That's also the reason why Google isn't telling Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) to stop using Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Bing instead of Google Search on some of its Android phones, and why the company isn't dictating what software goes into a proper Android handset in general. The one exception is that you need a certain set of Google-branded features in order to get a "with Google" logo on the phone.
I fully expect both Amazon and Best Buy to come through -- not only with new market solutions but with better ones. These are consumer-oriented companies with tons of design and usability experience, while Google is running Android more like an engineer than a marketer or a designer. The appearance of other alternatives will eventually force Google to get its own offering up to par, and so the virtuous cycle keeps spiraling until the app-installing experience stops being the saddest part of owning an Android phone -- or developing programs for them.
In fact, Google seems to have caught that fever already. Older Android phones have recently received an upgraded Market application ripped from the Froyo version of the platform. Phones as old as last year's HTC myTouch 3G now enjoy refinements like one-click updating of all installed applications and a nicer presentation of what each program is good for. But the sub-par search experience remains, and Google really should do better.
Is the lousy app market keeping you from buying an Android -- and would a better one change your mind? Discuss in the comments below.