Google shifts focus from Web to mobile apps

Google is seeking mobile app development talent to capture a stake in the lucrative mobile apps market.

Google is aggressively expanding its mobile app development efforts. According to a Wall Street Journal report, one of the first orders of business following the shakeup in executive leadership is to seek out app development talent. Google recognizes the value of mobile platforms and is working to stay one step ahead to claim its piece of the mobile market pie.

The mobile apps market is expected to top $15 billion in 2011, and grow to surpass $58 billion over the next few years. That is a pretty lucrative pie -- well worth focusing some attention on. The question, though, comes down to finding the right strategy to capitalize on it.

The Android Market lags far behind the Apple App Store in total apps. Android's 100,000-ish is no match for Apple's 350,000. Since Apple's iOS platform still leads Android in developer appeal, the odds of Android overtaking iOS in app volume is are slim to none.

But, so what? A recent study found that the average iPhone has 108 apps installed -- 20 of which are the default apps that came pre-installed on the smartphone. With only 88 apps per device, it shouldn't really matter whether you have 100,000 or 350,000 to choose from. In fact, both figures seem like overkill.

When it comes to apps, and the rivalry between the Android and iOS platforms, quality is more important than quantity. While there apparently is some market for apps that make fart noises, or apps that "meow" when you tap on a picture of a cat, the real challenge for either platform is to provide apps that have some practical use and contribute to the value of the smartphone as a platform for mobile productivity.

In fact, what may be even more important than quality is exclusivity. With 100,000 plus apps available for Android and 350,000 for iOS, it seems reasonable to assume that both platforms have a fair number of quality apps available -- certainly enough for a user to find the 80 or 90 apps they need to meet the average. But, if there are compelling apps that are only available on one platform or the other, it could provide an edge that can tip the smartphone or tablet purchasing decision.

A quick look at the Google products page illustrates the diversity of the Web apps created by Google. With the trend toward mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets, Google is staying ahead of the game by shifting gears and focusing development efforts on mobile apps.

Google can't expect to pass -- or even catch up to -- the volume of apps available for iOS simply by hiring a team of mobile app developers. But, by creating solid, quality apps that add value to the mobile experience Google can carve out a dominant piece of that mobile app market pie and be the sort of catalyst for mobile apps that it has been for Web apps.

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Tony Bradley

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