Five reasons why Google's Web apps store makes sense
Yesterday, Google announced that, later this year, it will release the Chrome Web Store. The idea isn't complex and philosophically compliments the app store for Google Docs and even Android Marketplace: Provide a marketplace for third-party apps. The strategy is sensible for Google, given its heavy orientation around the browser and cloud services.
Early last month I explained how Apple and Google are battling for the future of the mobile Web. Both companies are looking to capitalize on the shift from the PC client-server applications stack to the mobile device and cloud service stack. Apple's approach makes the mobile app primary, pushing up to the cloud, while Google pushes services down from cloud to device, mainly the browser. Already, Apple has built a huge application and developer ecosystem around App Store. Google needs to counter, but leveraging its cloud services strengths.
By the way, about six years ago, I first directly told Microsoft executives that the company should develop an applications store for Windows. The idea: Utilize Windows product activation and update architectures to provide a means for developers to directly sell applications through the operating system. The mechanism would pay developers and combat rampant piracy, particularly for smaller developers. That's pretty much what Apple did with App Store nearly two years ago. I'm convinced that Microsoft's position with developers would be stronger had executives followed the advice.
Now for those five reasons:
1. Google is launching a new operating system. Google says the app store will support both Chrome browser and OS. There is a chicken-and-egg scenario that applies to new operating systems, and many have failed because of it: Which comes first? The OS or the applications? Generally, people won't adopt an operating system unless there are applications, but developers tend not to support an OS unless there are users. By launching a dual-platform app store, Google can woo developers, providing base applications (along with its own many services) to jumpstart adoption.
2. Applications can drive up Chrome browser adoption faster. The dual-platform strategy can work because Google's browser is rapidly gaining usage share, while Firefox usage has leveled off and Internet Explorer declines. Good applications could give more people more reasons to adopt Chrome. It only takes one killer application to drive massive adoption. By the way, this is exactly the kind of scenario Microsoft tired to prevent during the late-`90s browser wars with Netscape: The Web browser becoming a pseudo operating system around which developers build applications and services.
3. Developers can get paid for their Web work. Right now, the app stores where developers get paid are tied to mobile operating system supporting services, like Android Marketplace or Apple App Store, among others. None of the major computer OS developers offers integrated app stores, nor does any major service provider offer one for browsers (emphasis on major provider). Google is in position to provide developers a place to sell rich Internet applications and supporting services for browsers, which reach would be broader than just mobile phones. Google Checkout, or perhaps a new payment system, would get developers paid for their work. LOL, how strange if Flash developers could get paid by Google. What a stick up Apple's no-Flash policy that would be.
4. Chrome Web Store can drive search usage and advertising dollars. Surely some developers will offer free apps, around which Google could bundle advertising -- something like what it already does and extended to something like Apple plans for its iAd advertising platform for iPhone OS 4. Based on Google's current behavior, its platform would offer developers more freedom than would Apple's. Google executives insinuate that applications could work with any browser, and that could arguably be the case for other Webkit-based browsers or applications supporting HTML 5. If so, Chrome Web Store would provide developers even more places to monetize their apps and for Google to drive its advertising and search businesses.
5. Browser users already are accustomed to installing browser plug-ins. End users shouldn't have to learn new behavior. Based on what little information Google has disclosed, the app store would be about as easy to use as installing a browser plug-in. Assuming Google uses Checkout, people with accounts would need no onerous extra steps to purchase applications.
Do you have reasons to add? Please offer them up in comments.