An App Store by another name?
Google has unveiled a glimpse of the online app store front it is building for its Android mobile platform.
Writing on the Android developer's blog, Google exec Eric Chu said Android Market will be "an open content distribution system that will help end users find, purchase, download and install various types of content on their Android-powered devices" - drawing inevitable comparisons with Apple's own App Store, a repository of iPhone applications unveiled earlier this year.
Chu added: "We chose the term 'market' rather than 'store' because we feel that developers should have an open and unobstructed environment to make their content available."
The online marketplace will also offer a YouTube-style feedback and rating system, according to Chu, who said there will be a three-step system for apps to enter the Market. This process doesn't appear to include an 'appropriateness test', as favoured by Apple - whereby iPhone apps must be approved by the company before they can appear on the App Store.
Chu said: "Similar to YouTube, content can debut in the marketplace after only three simple steps: register as a merchant, upload and describe your content and publish it. We also intend to provide developers with a useful dashboard and analytics to help drive their business and ultimately improve their offerings."
Developers can expect the first Android handsets to be enabled with a beta version of Market, said Chu, adding that support for free applications can be expected "at a minimum".
"Soon after launch an update will be provided that supports download of paid content and more features such as versioning, multiple device profile support, analytics, etc," Chu continued.
The widespread interest in the potential of application marketplaces is unsurprising, after Apple revealed it earned $30m in sales of iPhone apps in the first month after launching the App Store.
Mobile operator T-Mobile USA is reportedly developing an app store - one that will be accessible to its entire mobile customer base, not just owners of particular brands of smart phone.
Microsoft too appears to be following Google in building an app store. Job postings by the company have hinted it plans to launch an app store called Skymarket for its Windows Mobile platform this autumn.
While others are prepping their stores, Google has already been wooing developers to create applications for its own Android platform with the help of big cash prizes in the first round of its Developer Challenge competition - last week it awarded 10 developer teams $275,000 each and a further 10 teams all got $100,000 for their app creation efforts.
Devices based on Google's Android are expected before the end of the year but details on forthcoming handsets and how the software stack will work in practice remain limited.
However, writing in a recent Google Android blog post, developer advocate Dan Morrill suggested gaming could be an integral part of the Android scene. "We do realise that Android users will want to interact with other Android users anonymously and for short periods of time, especially in gaming scenarios," Morrill revealed.