Google Restricts In-App Billing to Android Market, Not So Open After All
Ever since the launch of Android, Google has been waving the “Open” flag all over the place. Unlike Apple, Google will claim, Android is an open operating system. The code is available to all (is it really?), google’s policies regarding apps in the Market areÂ lenient, and users can customize and personalize Android as they see fit.
While there is definitely some truth to Apple being a little too closed, Google keeps proving over and over again, that openness comes with a price, and they are not willing to pay it.
The fact that Android is in fact open source causes many problems for both users and developers. For a user, Android on an HTC is not the same Android as on a Motorola. Why? Because each company adds its own layer and touch ups on the Android experience. The only devices that are “pure” Android on the market are the Nexus One and the Nexus S. The rest of the many Android devices are branded by the specific manufacturer.
From a developer’s perspective, Android is fragmented to a point that is becoming unbearable to develop for the OS. Creating an app for Android means you have to take all devices into consideration. Each device with its own screen size, processing power, resolution, and overall capabilities. What works on a Nexus S will not necessarily work on a Galaxy S, and what works on both devices probably won’t work (or look half decent) on a Galaxy Tab or a Motorola Xoom. Of course, this affects users as well.
The topic of Android fragmentation has been discussed across the Web and most users and developers are aware of the issue. However, Google just proved once again, that while it might sell openness, even Google has its limits. The company recently launched in-app billing on the Android Market. Great initiative!
The problem, as GetJar points out, is that Google will not allow 3rd party app stores to take advantage of this new functionality. In-app billing is a positive step forward. At inneractive, we put developers’ needs at the forefront of our business, and the ability to monetize apps with in-app billing is a great new development. However, we all know that to make it in this space, especially on Android, developers have to distribute their apps across multiple channels.
If Google wanted to make the lives of developers easier, they would allow them to distribute their Android apps, with the in-app purchases, on other platforms! Otherwise, what is the point?
Patrick Mork of Getjar explained “In-app billing on Android is a big move that’s sure to have a very positive impact on developers’ ability to monetise Android content,” he says. “What’s less good is the news that developers won’t be able to use this outside Market. Â Why? Â Because Market has not proven itself to provide the best Android retail experience.Â This isn’t our opinion. Â It’s a fact and it’s what most developers will tell you.”
While Google has every right to implement new features on its Market exclusively, what it does not have a right to do is yell “Open” day and night, until it is time for developers to take advantage of that openness, then all of a sudden its “Sorry, we’re closed!”
Can we expect to see Google open up the in app billing API to external app stores in the near future or is it a lost cost?
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