Google’s Android Market isn’t the only market in town
Android's open distribution model has spawned independent App stores, which, while now distinct from Google's, could wind up competitors
For more coverage of the Android launch see Telephony’s Android topic page
The first Android phone, the HTC G1, launched over the T-Mobile network on Tuesday, and along with it opened the Android market, Google’s application portal offering free apps for the device and future Android phones. But Android Market wasn’t the only app store to go live serving G1 customers. Android’s open distribution model has spawned parallel marketplaces from Handango and MobiHand, both looking to fill the paid-application niche.
At launch, the open-source Android community is entirely self-governing. Google won’t restrict the type of apps that can be developed or distributed, as Apple did on the iPhone, nor will it restrict where or how those applications can be downloaded to the phone. The G1 handset comes embedded with a number of Google applications, such as Maps, Gmail and YouTube, but additional third-party applications including a MySpace app, mobile VoIP and the Weather Channel are available for free download at Android Market. There’s a lot more content and applications available to Android phone users if they want it though. Unlike the Apple model, which handles all downloads and transactions through the iTunes App store, customers can download Android apps from any other source, whether it’s from a third-party retailer or an independent developer’s Website. Specifically that open model has generated marketplaces for developers who want to charge for their content, something the Android store doesn’t yet do. Application warehouses like Handango and MobiHand are the first to launch their own Android storefronts, offering both free and paid-for apps. As more app distribution sites come online, consumers will ultimately have far more choice in where they go for content, said Kevin Burden, director of mobile devices at ABI Research, but that fragmentation could also create a confusing competitive marketplace.
“For the typical user, the danger is being somewhat confused by where do you actually go,” Burden said. “If I’m a G1 user, why do I go to Handango versus Google’s app store or vice versa? I think there will be some confusion, but I don’t think its momentum-killing confusing. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have multiple locations for applications to be sold.”
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