Google Eyes Mobile App Market, Falls Short With New Search

The Google Mobile team unveiled a new type of search results today: Android and iPhone native apps. It’s a great idea, but the execution leaves much to be desired.

Try searching for terms like “Bank of America app,” or “download Shazam” on your Android or iPhone and the app store’s top search result will appear at the top of the page. Unfortunately, I tried deliberately searching for a long list of specific apps and types of apps but didn’t get the new kind of results in very many cases. This will have to change in time, the opportunity is just too big.

It would be more helpful if “mobile apps” was a new type of search that could be performed, if the results were broader and if mobile Web apps were privileged in the same kind of way.

These search results ought to recognize your context (mobile) and present relevant apps whether you know to look for them or not.

It is a relief to see that Google points to the iTunes store in searches on an iPhone, instead of saying, “you should buy an Android phone.” As Steve Jobs said yesterday, just because you’re competing with someone doesn’t mean you have to be rude.

App Stores Will Only Get Bigger & Better

The app store model is a radical change from standard Web page search. It’s curated by user voting and in some cases by the platform vendor. Apps are stand-alone bundles of functionality that a user returns to again and again, at least in theory. They are different from Web pages and the app store model compliments the chaotic, interconnected Web nicely.

Google’s desktop browser Chrome recently unveiled plans to include a web app store of its own. App stores are hot already, but they are only going to get hotter. (See this list of 75 different app stores just for mobile platforms, for example.)

There are also a wide variety of app store models that could jostle for market share as the market expands. As Peggy Anne Salz wrote yesterday on MSearchGroove:

According to Sizing Up The Global Apps Market, the recent milestone report from Chetan Sharma Consulting (commissioned by independent app store GetJar), app downloads are expected to rise from over 7 billion in 2009 (Asia accounted for a whopping 37 percent of the total) to almost 50 billion by 2012. Revenue is forecast to increase from $4.1 billion in 2009 to $17.5 billion by 2012. Predictably, a variety of models — ranging from paid apps and apps bundled with subscription offers, to ad-funded schemes and loyalty programs that raise brand awareness – will drive distribution and monetization.

50 billion downloads? That smells like a great opportunity for paid search placement, affiliate links to app stores and more.

App search, discovery, sharing, and to some degree recommendation (iTunes Genius is pretty good already) are big new opportunities for development. It’s disappointing to see Google Mobile announce something as lackluster as this feature is today. Hopefully it will improve quickly. It’s a great idea.

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