Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Is the Google webstore another half baked idea?


This question might be met with a lot of cynicism and support. I know plenty of people would like to say that the naysayers of Google’s Chrome Web Store is a shortsighted theory and that the Web Store is in for the long run. There are also others who would probably support this idea with the typical net rage with cries of “Google will fail”.

Today this article popped up on Techcrunch stating that the number of sales on the Chrome Web Store have slowed down to a trickle. The author makes quite a few thoughtful points on the fact that the paid app with the highest number of purchases is currently making 156$ a week. Seeing that all the apps are then making less than that probably is not a good sign for the Web Store.

While it is possible that the Web Store is not looking to gain traction at this point it probably was not looking at losing this much traction either. It’s a bad thing for the up and coming web store to not be growing in numbers at this point since developers gravitate towards a development platform based on its potential. If the developers start leaving now then when the actual products that depend on the Web Store do come out, users are going to be left with half baked experiences and a lagging market which will take time to actually come about. Google really does not want that. They’ve seen, with Android, the potential a platform has for user adoption if it already has meaningful apps and a healthy developer eco system at the time of release.

The biggest problem here is that everything is a circle now. Even Google doesn’t quite know when Chrome OS will be ready for prime time. No one knows what medium Chrome OS is to be mainstreamed on. Desktop? Laptop? Tablet? This matters a lot since each one’s capabilities and interaction methods can vary vastly from one another. The apps that are meant to support the Chrome OS are largely a bunch of bookmarks to already developed web apps. The ones that aren’t like the NYT app gives a feeling of being tablet oriented.

In essence while Google can hide behind the excuse of “Chrome is a long term plan” they need to realise that long term plans are executed through short term goals. This is exactly the problem they had with Wave too. Fantastic idea with no real direction. Just a vague long term goal “it’ll replace your email”. Chrome OS and the Chrome web store suffer from the same problem. A vague long term goal, “it’ll replace your need for a standard OS” or “it’ll be the cloud platform of the future”.

If Google really wants to see this through to the end they need to put their gloves and thinking caps on and show the world a really meaningful direction that the Chrome eco system is taking. They need to tell developers, “by a chrome web app we don’t mean a bookmark to your already existing web app. We don’t really want a tablet app. We want something that takes it’s place in the browser and changes the browser to act like a ‘desktop’ app”. At least that’s what I think Google would want. Oh and they need to explain the importance of permissions for the web app as well. Right now it just feels like a simple add on.

Back to the ovens Google. You might have pulled this idea out a little too soon.


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