I've been pounding the table over the deficient app store for Android programs. It's been a mess that's difficult for consumers to navigate and even harder for app developers to monetize, and it's downright shameful for an information specialist like Google
So this should be my lucky day.
What's the news?
Google has finally introduced the Honeycomb version of Android in all its tablet-ready goodness, and a revamped app store is part and parcel of that upgrade. No longer are consumers inextricably tied to a crummy smartphone app for finding other apps -- the new Android Market is a regular Web store that can be browsed and consumed from any Web browser on any platform. Sign in with the same Google account you already linked to your Android phone, and app installation becomes a pleasingly quick and simple two-click experience.
Though you'll need an Android device to run the apps, that means you can still install Android apps directly from your iPhone. Doesn't that sound like fun?
The store keeps track of the features and capabilities of your phone, meaning you can't install incompatible apps. For example, my aging myTouch 3G is grayed out in the device selector for the Adobe Systems Flash Player installer.
Google is clearly putting its back into monetizing the apps, too. Entering the new store, you're confronted with slates of featured apps, many of which are pay-to-download offerings. The "top paid" tab is right next to the "featured" presentation, which is highlighted by default. Even if you don't want to pay for your apps, it just got easier to stumble across some nifty non-free recommendation.
There's also a brand-new system for billing users from within the app itself, opening new markets for add-on content and subscription services. Finally, the app-purchase process is still tied to the Google Checkout billing system, which has achieved significantly less penetration than Apple's iTunes billing or the eBay
Perhaps Big G hopes that Android users will just do the Checkout thing now that they're far more likely to try to purchase apps from a regular browser with a full-sized, comfortable keyboard. Anything that makes the signup process less cumbersome removes another obstacle to the store's success.
But all is not wine and roses, even in this much-improved store.
From the consumer's point of view, the store isn't that much easier to navigate. You can't filter or sort the categorized app listings by user ratings, price, or number of installations -- though I'd hazard a guess that it's all sorted by popularity to begin with. Running a search improves the situation somewhat, but you have to expand an anonymous-looking "search options" link to manipulate your search results. Even then, you can only choose whether to rank the results by popularity or by relevance to the search terms, filter out apps that won't run on your device (which should be the default, but isn't), and choose between free or paid apps. That's it.
Developers will be frustrated to see that there still isn't any obvious way to actively promote or advertise apps in the official store. Partnering up with someone like eBay or maybe a direct partnership with Visa
Try, try again
"Give me convenience or give me death" is more than just a Dead Kennedys compilation album -- it's the battle cry of an entire generation of American and global consumers that will settle for nothing less than ultimate control in a single click. This store beats the pants off anything Nokia
Nice try, Google. You still have more work to do, and Apple still holds the upper hand in the battle of the app stores.
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple, Adobe Systems, and eBay are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool has written puts on Apple. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Adobe Systems. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.