The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is making a push to hire Android app developers in an attempt to catch up with Apple’s app market. Apple currently has around 350,000 apps in the iTunes store, while Google’s Market contains a little more than 100,000 apps. The effects of this strategy remain to be seen, but I expect it to succeed in some areas and fail in others.
Google’s strategy of developing its own apps will certainly help create more blockbuster apps, most of which require larger resources to develop. Google Maps and Google Navigate apps, both required large resources to create, did give Android a definite advantage over other platforms. Such blockbuster apps will increase Android adoption, which in turn will attract more independent developers to create more apps. But is that enough?
It is important to understand that Google alone will not be able to muster the sheer number of independent developers that develop iPhone apps. The question that Google needs to answer is: considering the fact that there are more developers who can develop Android apps than those who can develop iPhone apps, why has the app gap remained largely unchanged over the past few months? The answer may have something to do with the revenue developers receive from the apps they develop.
According to Nielsen, Android seems to attract a younger, less-affluent crowd. Consequently, Android app developers rely on ad revenue, which is much smaller than revenue they can get from developing a pay app for the iPhone. And the more complex an app is the more critical potential revenue becomes to justify the developers’ investment. Not only does Google need to figure out a way to improve the ad revenue Android developers receive, it also needs to educate developers in other revenue generation models such as mining data collected from the apps.
Crowd sourcing is another method that Google can utilize to attract more developers to Android. Contests for apps that provide the most utility to users can be a very cost effective way to stimulate the creation of blockbuster apps without the risk of directly hiring new employees.
Only time will tell the efficacy of Google’s strategy to push development of apps in-house. But in the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to try to walk a mile in the independent developers’ shoes and try to remove the obstacles that prevent them from developing for Android.