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Google takes serious stab at conquering Apple?s app-dom

Google has launched a set of software tools meant to increase Android?s developer pool, which is an obvious attempt to conquer rival Apple?s app-dom.

With the App Store now boasting more than 215,000 applications, Google?s Android has quite some work ahead if it wants to conquer Apple. The average iPhone customer downloaded 12.6 applications over the last 90 days, while other mobile subscribers average less than half that, per Yankee Group.

?I don?t want to dismiss it as an obvious move to better compete with Apple,? said David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation at 360i, New York. ?It is a very smart move since a lot of the Android brand is built on this mindset.

?Android is available to any carrier or handset manufacturer and now anyone can build an Android-based application,? he said. 

App Inventor is a new tool in Google Labs that makes it easy for anyone?programmers and non-programmers, professionals and students?to create mobile applications for Android-powered devices.

For many people, their mobile phone and access to the Internet is always within reach.

App Inventor for Android gives everyone, regardless of programming experience, the opportunity to control and reshape their communication experience.

The war continues
The bigger picture is quite interesting here.

The new software tools may give Google's Android a leg-up against Apple's iPhone OS.

App Inventor gives anyone the power to design software. This is something that is not as easy when dealing with Apple.

Developers need software developing skills to make applications for the iPhone. Additionally, there is a rigorous approval process that developers go through to get their applications into the App Store for download. 

?App Inventor clearly creates an easier pathway for new developers and it creates a larger developer pool for Android,? said Neil Strother, Kirkland, WA-based practice director of ABI Research. ?By creating a larger developer pool, Google takes a stab at Apple indirectly.?

Clear winner?
But the question is, will the company that wins the application war ultimately be the leader in the mobile marketing space?

There are mixed reactions to this question.

?With Android, it is getting more popular than iPhone, since there are a lot of issues with iPhone 4,? said Kiran Modak, CEO of AppTango, Seattle. ?A lot of people like the new Android phones.

?However, Apple has a leg-up because people don?t want to go to Droid because they like iPhone apps,? he said.

For developers, creating applications for iPhone is very simple, since Apple provides programmers with a software developer kit.

?App Inventor is a way for Google to bridge the gap,? Mr. Modak said. ?Android is saying, ?Hey don?t just develop for Apple.??

Mr. Modak said it is all about reach and that Android is getting there with many people opting for phones based on the operating system.

Apple?s exclusivity agreement with AT&T is actually working to boost Android?s market share, since more carriers offer Android-enabled devices than iPhones.

?The company that wins the app war will be the clear winner in the mobile marketing space, I think so,? Mr. Modak said. ?Apps have proven to be very important in the mobile marketing space and people are crazy when it comes to the apps that they use.

?The apps are Apple?s advantage,? he said. ?Plans between carriers are getting similar, Android phones are just as superior as iPhone, so Android needs to catch up in the apps race.? 

More than apps
Some industry experts argue that there is more to mobile marketing than just applications.

There is SMS, mobile advertising, mobile coupons and such.

?I think mobile is so big so there will be room for a few winners,? Mr. Berkowitz said. ?Clearly Google and Apple will keep bolstering their offerings.?

Alex Hall, executive vice president of global strategic relationships at TigerSpike, New York, does not think that this news will change too much.

Mr. Hall thinks the development is unlikely to effect the Google versus Apple turf war.

"It?s a great long term vision to introduce the opportunity to people who perhaps thought learning how to code was beyond them," Mr. Hall said. "The more people that are intimately involved in mobile technology, the faster the industry as a whole will advance.

"However, unless the App Inventor convinces handset manufacturers to adopt Android, the impact is merely one of increasing the volume of apps in the Android store, at the likely expense of quality," he said. "Ultimately, Apple?s advantages will remain the mainstream consumer understanding of how to use the App Store and the fact that development is for only one screen size, if you exclude iPad.

"The Android OS is exploding though, and the sheer scale of potential distribution will be what wins the war as far as mobile marketing is concerned. Of course, there are increasingly tricks that can be employed to develop more cost effectively across multiple mobile platforms and as advances continue in this area, it will be less consequential to marketers as to who is winning the war." 

App Inventor
Google has been testing App Inventor in classrooms nationwide for the past year.

Here is a demo of App Inventor:

"The goal of App Inventor for Android is to empower people regardless of programming experience to become creators, and not just consumers, of their mobile experiences," said Shari Yoder Doherty, spokeswoman at Google, Mountain View, CA. 

Final Take
360i's Mr. Berkowitz visited Mobile Marketer?s office in New York. Here is what he said about Google?s App Inventor: