Android Market Is Ailing, Requires Care and Feeding, Analysts Say

Android developers say Google's hands-off approach and lack of management of its Android Market is hurting the company even as it proudly hawks its operating system as an open-source platform for smartphones and other mobile devices. Some analysts agree and say Google needs to take a more active role in cutting down on spam and copyright and trademark infringement in the application store. Failure to address these issues could lead developers to abandon the Android Market for Apple's App Store.

When Google unveiled its Android Market in 2008 as a source of applications for its open-source operating system for smartphones and other mobile gadgets, it was pitched as the freewheeling alternative to Apple's more closed and proprietary iPhone App Store.

The Android Market application count has risen steadily to more than 65,000 programs. But now that hands-off approach and lack of management, accompanied by some access issues, is causing Google problems.

Software developer Jon Lech Johansen, who built an Android application for his music synchronization company DoubleTwist, published a blog post June 27 in which he noted that Google does not provide proper care and feeding for the Android Market.

"Unlike Apple's App Store, the Android Market has few high-quality apps," Johansen wrote, citing a study from Larva Labs showing that Apple has paid out 50 times as much money to developers as Google has.

Johansen added, "While the Android Market is available in 46 countries, developers can only offer paid apps in 13 countries. In addition, the price for foreign apps is not displayed in the user's local currency and developers do not have the option of customizing pricing by country.

"To make matters worse, you can't pay for foreign apps using your AmEx card or carrier billing. There's also no support for in-app payments and changelogs (to communicate app changes)."

Johansen's biggest complaint was that the channel is full of trademark and copyright infringement, noting that there are "144 spam ringtone apps (which are clearly infringing copyright) ... being monetized through Google ads."

As a programmer who wrote a DoubleTwist app for Android, his complaints are valid. Others can be seen on the Android Market help forum.

Google declined to comment, but industry watchers such as John Battelle and several analysts have taken note.

"Apple focuses on design and customer experience before anything else and a premium experience you pay for, while Google leads with technology and the idea that software should be free or close to it," industry analyst Rob Enderle told eWEEK. "The end result is that Apple has created, at least initially, a far more successful model, while Google is struggling."