Just a month ago, Google’s Eric Chu said that Google was “not happy” with how the Android Market was failing to make money for devs and not managing to square up to Apple’s 10 billion-selling App Store. Chu also said that a new team was manually checking Android Market for apps which didn’t meet the Big G’s terms of service, an early indicator that it was learning from Apple’s occasionally belligerent approach to policing add-ons.
This more stringent strategy now seems to be coming to fruition. Visual Voicemail, a million-selling Android app and a chart topper, has been thrown out for breaking terms of service, reportedly because it wasn’t taking in-app payments through Google Checkout, therefore breaching guidelines.
Google gave the app the heave immediately, leaving Visual Voicemail’s developer, PhoneFusion, seething. Its VP Jonathan Hollander, told GigaOM: “It looks like they’re pulling an Apple but just for us. There was no warning that they’re going to enforce this, which makes it worse than Apple. Even if you disagree with Apple, they gave until June to remove their apps. Here, there’s no choice.”
It seems that with in-app purchases still in their infancy on Android, Google is finally flexing its muscles, much to the disappointment of devs. But while this Visual Voicemail debate will doubtless be fixed, this move does point to Google finally realising that if Android is going to grow at such a phenomenal rate, the Market needs to have rules to which all devs will stick.
Everyone knows where they stand with Apple, whether they like it or not. Perhaps Google hasn’t shown such power in the past, but now is certainly the time to do it. As has been said here before, Google would do well to stop poorly thought out apps and bug-ridden efforts sullying its virtual emporium. This is even more vital now, with 350,000 Android phones being activated daily and Android sitting atop the smartphone charts.
The Big G doesn’t have to throw in arbitrary clauses and look like it’s bullying devs for no good reason. Just show that it has to set boundaries and that using Android is a privilege, not somewhere that can act as a testing ground. This isn’t the case with Visual Voicemail, but perhaps what Google has done will send a message that it’s going to be keeping a lot closer eye on things in the future.