Some have applauded Android's "come one come all" app philosophy; others think it's left the Android Market a mess. Now Verizon's looking to clean things with a closed competing Android app store of their own. So why isn't Google fuming?
Verizon currently pre-installs something called the V Cast App Store on many of its BlackBerry phones, offering users an alternative to the official BlackBerry App World that's also installed on the devices out of the box. According to AndroidandMe, Verizon will be expanding V Cast App Store to Android devices in coming months, having opened submissions to Android developers on September 1. It doesn't cost developers anything to apply, and just as with Apple's App Store, Verizon will review every entry, separating out the wheat from the spammy and/or subpar chaff.
Some advantages of Verizon's upcoming App Store, as spelled out in a letter they sent to developers:
• It's Free – No Testing Fees • Carrier Billing – Your applications are billed directly to the Customer's Bill; No credit cards, PayPal, etc. • 70/30 Revenue Share – 70% Developer / 30% Verizon • Hands-on, Experienced Content Programming Team – Get the visibility you deserve, not just a quality-crushing algorithm!
Some of those incentives, like carrier billing, make it seem like V Cast Apps will expand into areas that it's been difficult for the cross-carrier Android Market to go. Others, like promising an improvement on the Market's "quality-crushing algorithm", make it seem like it's a more deliberate effort to have a Verizon-tended walled garden, something to serve as a corrective to Android's overgrown jungle of apps.
But not everyone will be able to enjoy that garden; AndriodandMe reports that initially V Cast will only be available to Verizon devices running Android 2.2. That covers much of the Droid family - Incredible, Droid 1, Droid 2 and Droid X - but still leaves plenty of other Androids in the dust, which could chart a whole new frontier for Android's long-standing problem: fragmentation.
Google's acknowledgement of the fragmentation problem and their reluctance to promise any sweeping fix for it suggests that they understand it as a consequence of casting their platform's net so wide. And this is exactly why Google won't be upset about the competing V Cast App Store: It's a move that only signals Verizon's deeper investment in Android.
When we talked to Andy Rubin, the lead Android himself, last May, he was unambiguous about where he wanted to see Android a year or two down the line: pretty much everywhere.
For Android it's a numbers game. It's an end product with end OEMs and product categories today, but what we demonstrated at IO was pretty unique. We demonstrated big screen and small screen; we demonstrated ARM processor and Intel processor, and we demonstrated stuff from different OEMs: HTC, and Sony on the TV side. So look, we're cross product category, cross manufacturer, cross CPU architecture, agnostic, and we have all the services pointed to the platform, and the platform is just going to go pretty broad across those product categories. It's never been done before.
While we might carp about Verizon's greedy decision to force-feed Android users Bing, and while some might see Verizon's new App Store as a similarly greedy attempt to stick their fingers in the app cookie jar (potentially at the expense of some users), Google knows that if Verizon's cultivating an Android app ecosystem of their own, it means that they'll be all the more interested in pushing out even more Android phones in years to come.
For Google, it's a numbers game - more Android phones means more places to put their services and their search and their ads - and sadly, in that Android-everywhere future, defining every element of the user experience will be an impossible task. At some point maybe Verizon will bloat Android devices to the point that Google will have to step in and push things back on course. But for now, Google isn't too concerned about what Verizon's doing with Android, just so long as it's Android they're doing it with. [AndroidandMe]