Google Unleashes Its Android App Zombie Army Strategy

Last Updated Jul 12, 2010 1:17 PM EDT

Google (GOOG) opened the beta version of its Android app generator for general use. The App Inventor is a graphically-driven way to piece together quick and easy applications that will run on Android phones and has largely targeted student users. The strategy has already raised the question of whether this will create a flood of appcrap or marketing power. I think it will be both, and that's fine.

As you can see in the video demo below, putting together a simple Android application is pretty easy. That immediately leads to the conclusion that there will be a lot of inconsequential apps arriving, which will gum up the Google app store works and undercut Android's competitive position with regards to Apple (AAPL) iOS. Not at all.

Although I'm sure the Apple fans will disagree, I can't image that the vast bulk of all the iOS apps available are all that useful or in demand. As is true with any retailing operating, the vast number of downloads and sales come from a tiny percentage of the whole. What do the rest do for Apple? Impress customers with the "variety" they can get. It's a case where store size matters.

But it already looks as though the Android store will hit 100,000 apps this month, as the graph from below shows:

That's a massive number. As large as Apple? No, but it doesn't matter. As true with iOS apps, the bulk of downloads and purchases will occur with a tiny percentage. That brings us to the advantage that Google App Inventor represents:

  • It invites customers to become more tied in and to put something together rather than wait for someone to do it for them. The large portion of customers won't care, but it helps hook the early adopters and power users, and they influence others.
  • The app generator becomes like a farm team. A few apps will rise, get noticed, and make their way into the app store, giving people the thought that they all stand a shot at making money. Even if statistically unrealistic, it's a great emotional sell.
  • If I'm reading the information on the site right, the App Inventor lets you add blocks of custom code, which means developers can use it to get a UI largely in place and then to add the functions they specifically need -- the ones that will provide value to consumers.
  • As developers use the generator to handle the UI code, Google has a chance to drive for greater uniformity in how applications act, gaining some ground on Apple in that arena, without sacrificing the ability to do something different that is better.
Nokia (NOK) has tried something similar, except that its platform hasn't grabbed the attention of consumers the way Apple and, now, Google have.

Although I've voiced my doubts about Google's marketing, that was in regards to traditional advertising and corporate communications. Where Google has excelled is in coming up with products and using advertising revenue to sit back and wait for them to catch on. It doesn't need Apple's marketing dazzle, because it's willing for a product to take a few years to get attention. And, just like in the movies, the army of zombies will be difficult to resist.


Zombie poster image: Hryck, CC 2.0. Evo 4G image, courtesy HTC.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.