Giving in Google Goes ‘All in’ with Apps

For quite some time Google was very anti-app. It grudgingly accepted that it had to have apps and developers to compete with the iPhone. The original Google fantasy was a mobile world in which the full Internet was accessed through a high-end browser. But that vision has faded as apps have taken hold. HTML5 “web apps” are a hybrid or compromise.

Now there’s reportedly been a big shift at Google. The company is hiring mobile developers to build apps for smartphones and tablets, to be spread across the company in an effort to boost Android and Google in multiple ways.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal:

The new app-development efforts will be scattered across Google’s offices world-wide, the people familiar with the matter said. The company, they said, will bankroll small groups of engineers to create a range of apps, from the kinds of games made famous by Rovio Mobile Ltd.’s Angry Birds to services that are based on a user’s location, like the popular app from Foursquare Labs Inc. that lets users “check in” with friends at, say, a store or park.

The former head of Maps and Local for Google John Hanke recently set up an incubator at Google primarily to develop mobile apps:

“Our goal will be to pump out prototypes quickly and see what sticks,” Hanke explained. The focus will be entirely on mobile (and local and social), though some products could have a PC aspect. The “conceit” here is to operate as though the PC didn’t exist, to imagine the world not just as “mobile first” but mobile only.

Google wisely and rightly sees the strategic importance of mobile and has been much more aggressive about mobilizing than its competitors. Eventually however Google’s mobile success, I believe, will come back to haunt the company. I think that antitrust regulators will eventually try and separate Google from control over Android. (You heard it here first.)

See related: Google’s Android becomes the world’s leading smart phone platform