Google has accomplished a lot in the mobile space thanks to its mobile operating system, Android, but when it comes to building a platform that developers want to develop for, Android still lags behind Apple.
Unlike Google, Apple has thrived at building an ecosystem in which consumers not only use applications, but purchase them.
Yesterday, Google took a step towards making Android more competitive as a revenue-generator by launching in-app payments.
In-app payments allow Android developers to build apps that generate revenue through the sale of content within the application. This could include virtual goods, for instance, which have become a billion-dollar business in the social gaming space. Initially, a number of popular games, including Tap Tap Revenge, have implemented in-app payments. In-app payments also support freemium business models, as developers can now upsell premium paid functionality within their free applications.
But the question remains: how popular will in-app payments become on Android? One of the big challenges with Android has been Google's use of its Google Checkout payment platform, which has been a source of criticism.
In-app payments rely on Google Checkout as well, and Google is also taking a laissez-faire approach to in-app purchases. There's no approval process for developers to be able to implement in-app payments, and Google is largely relying on developers to build apps that implement its security best practices. On the consumer side of the equation, it appears in-app purchases are non-refundable. This is a potentially deadly combination if unscrupulous or incompetent operators create negative experiences around Android in-app payments, and it's possible that in the final analysis, Google will determine that there are some areas in which Android would be better off mirroring Apple's ecosystem.