Google's announcement today that it would rename the Android Market to Google Play is the equivalent of Target renaming itself Toys R' Us. What was once a general purpose department store open to consumer and businessperson alike is now 100% all about the fun.
Despite ex-CEO, current Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt's background with enterprise vendors like Sun Microsystems and Novell, Google has never really put a ton of focus on enterprises, certainly no more than Apple has.
The obvious interpretation of changing the name of its Android storefront to Google Play is that Google is reducing its efforts marketing and catering to businesses.
I think, however, it could actually signal a new push towards businesses by Google.
Here's my thinking, which is not the result of any inside information: the Android Market was already huge, with 450,000 apps. Those apps are now being intermingled with movies, music, e-books, etc.
The Android Market wasn't built with enterprise in mind. Neither the flexible payment, pricing and high-touch marketing options desired by enterprise app makers, nor the security and app management capabilities that IT managers want.
Indeed, while general-purpose productivity apps like communications tools and document viewers were popular enough to surface in the Android Market, true enterprise apps - your CRM dashboards, your analytics viewers, your HR applets - tended to drown in that ocean of content. That problem only gets worse in Google Play.
The intermingling with more consumer content also means that many CIOs, already nervous about "crapplications" or malware-infested apps on the Android Market, may become even more hesitant about directing their employees to download their work apps there.
But...I think it's impossible that Google is planning a major retreat from the enterprise market. It's just too big and too smart for that. Nor do I think that Google believes that the Consumerization of IT trend will be so huge that it will overturn all traditional IT.
So I have to believe - and again, this is not based on any inside knowledge - that even as Google separates out its consumer-focused content, it will make an enterprise reboot, by doing one, some or all of the following things:
1) preparing its own Enterprise App Store, likely an aggregator or common cloud-based store tailored to showcase and demo these high-end apps;
2) opening up Android's APIs more to make it easier for Mobile Device Management (MDM) software such as Sybase Afaria to build full-fledged internal Enterprise App Stores;
3) partnering with ISVs building Enterprise App Stores that are more tailored to business buyers than Android Market ever was or could be. These include SAP with its new SAP Store for Mobile Apps. I haven't thought through exactly how such a partnership would best work.
So contrary to appearances, I suspect Google has something up its sleeve for enterprises. And I'm dying to find out what it is.