The WSJ has reported that Google has started a campaign to hire mobile app developers for its own applications, and some third party apps. This move is a change from the company's previous position of building web apps for everything. It is likely Google has realized what mobile users have come to understand, that mobile apps are better than web-based portals into online activities.
According to the WSJ sources, Google is looking to hire "software engineers, product managers, user-interface experts and others who have ideas for mobile apps". This in-house development effort will span multiple Google offices and push to produce solid apps for Google's mobile customers. It is not clear if the focus will be solely on Android smartphone apps, or also include tablet apps as this segment is heating up this year.
Mobile users have voted with their downloads that mobile apps are a preferable way to interact with online services. For most mobile platforms you check, a Facebook app is one of the top apps installed by users. The Facebook service is accessible via mobile web browsers, but users appreciate the enhanced (and simpler) experience obtained through using the mobile apps.
Even Google's own Gmail web site, which has been optimized for access through mobile browsers, is usually accessed through mobile apps on the major platforms. The user interface for working with email is tailored for use on the mobile platform, resulting in a user experience that is easier and more pleasurable to use. This is obviously not lost on Google, who now looks to build its own apps.
There is no timeframe stated to indicate when to expect Google's mobile apps, but the company tends to move at light speed with efforts such as this once committed. The beneficiaries of such development will be Google's mobile user base, but third party app developers must be getting nervous with this news.