Android apps could shoot Google in the foot
Published: 5 January, 2010
Google has been second only to Apple in promoting the use of the mobile application store, but has always said that it sees this approach as a temporary one, to be eclipsed in time by the browser. As the browser evolves into a full operating system, and its mobile version becomes adequate for full web apps, the app store will be a thing of the past, Google argues - but in the meantime, it may have shot itself in the foot with its temporary attachment to downloadable apps.
According to new research by BroadPoint AmTech, mobile apps that take users straight to ecommerce sites - like those in Android Market - are a threat to the very search business on which Google rests its success. The research note points out that one of the chief revenue sources for search engines centers on ecommerce queries, especially as mobile shopping expands. But dedicated mobile apps for sites like Amazon, often accessed directly from the homescreen, can bypass the search box.
Search engines are a "middle man to be removed", says BroadPoint, as reported by the GigaOm blog, and it goes on to identify four ways that search models will be disrupted by mobile app stores. They can bypass searches for terms like 'Amazon'; can provide a one-stop shop for product queries and comparisons, even incorporating barcode reading; can gain a homescreen position that makes them easy to use, and often the customer's default app; and provide far greater convenience than complex searches.
In the analysts' view, Google is at least ensuring itself a place in the mobile apps world with its Android strategies, rather than sticking its head in the sand as other search majors seem to be doing. However, its revenue model will survive better if it can hasten the shift away from downloadable apps and towards the open browser - and that will mean coming up with compelling reasons for users to change their behavior once again.