Is Android More Open? Google Kicks Kongregate Out of the Marketplace

Google’s Android is widely considered the more open and democratic of the two leading smartphone operating systems, whereas Apple is criticized for its allegedly tight control over what apps get accepted into its app store. Perhaps contrary to that reputation for openness, tonight we learn that casual game service Kongregate has had its gaming app kicked out of the Android Marketplace.

The move was reported on in-depth by VentureBeat’s Matthew Lynley, who focuses on the idea that this might be a signal that Google is finally going to make its much-anticipated big move into mobile gaming soon. That’s of less interest to me than what might be an important example of Android being less open that many people think. It might be, but that’s subject for debate.

Kongregate is a site where independent publishers post casual Flash games. It’s a cool site. Jeff Bezos invested in it and it was acquired by a much larger gaming service called GameStop this Summer.

The Kongregate Android app acts like a browser, CEO Jim Greer said. Google said that it removed the app because it was acting like an app store itself. Fortunately for Kongregate, Android apps can be distributed through independent marketplaces and websites – so the company is still promoting its Android app heavily. Getting booted from the official app marketplace can’t be good, though.

“It does seem like a pretty extreme distortion to call something that plays content in a browser to be the same thing as an application store,” Greer told VentureBeat. “By this definition, we don’t see why apps like the Kindle or other music apps aren’t across the line.”

Is this evidence of Google’s open marketplace perhaps being more fickle and less different than Apple’s than is believed?

Greer made different statements to two different news outlets tonight that capture well the ambivalence that he’s likely far from alone in feeling.

He said to Joystiq: “I’m not ready to say it’s a philosophical shift from Google; you could misinterpret our app and think those are all native experiences, but right now I’m just confused.”

But he told Venturebeat: “It’s weird to me that at the same time Apple is becoming more transparent and more open about their app store policies that Google would be kind of shutting down on games.”

Google hasn’t yet responded to our request for comment.

Austin renaissance woman and game producer Silona Bonewald offered an appropriate response (imagine her exhaling slowly) “oof well that was awkward of Google…”

What do you think?

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