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Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 12:00 am PT (03:00 am ET)

Google "not happy" with slow Android app sales

Despite brisk hardware sales to consumers and large numbers of apps sitting in in marketplace, Google's Android platform isn't resulting in healthy app sales, a problem the company is trying to solve.

Speaking to "anxious app developers" at the Inside Social Apps conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Android platform manager Eric Chu said Google is actually "not happy" about the limited number of apps actually being purchased, according to a report by Forbes blogger Oliver Chiang.

The Plan to fix Android app sales

Chiang said Chu outlined a roadmap for Android in 2011 that the company hopes will help it drive new app sales more comparable to the outstanding results of Apple's blockbuster iOS App Store, but noted the plan is short on specifics.

"Chu used the phrase 'stay tuned' enough to make a drinking game out of it," Chiang wrote.

The overall plan includes creating an in-app payments system like the one Apple created last year as part of iOS 4, enabling developers to sell episodic content or related virtual goods.

Google also hopes to negotiate carrier billing agreements with scores of regional mobile providers, allowing users to buy apps and bill them to their mobile account. Apple doesn't need to do this because the iOS App Store in iTunes can bill users directly in most countries, far more than Google's Android Marketplace.

Wanted: app curator

Chu also wants to clean up Android Market, saying there is a team tasked with "weeding out apps that violate Android Market’s terms of service," an indication that Google's free-for-all market design is recognized to have serious drawbacks.

Many of the tens of thousands of apps in Android Market are just ringtones, wallpapers or simplistic "apps" designed just to fill space, a situation that drowns out legitimate developer's work under tons of copyright infringing junkware.

Android Market has also distributed distractive malware, a problem Google can't catch in advance because it isn't curating its catalog, and instead waiting for fires to erupt so it can put them out.

Migration toward HTML apps

The company also hopes to create algorithms to help promote the best apps, making it easier for users to discover worthwhile programs. Chu also indicated that Google planned to turn users' Address Books into a "social graph" that third party apps could tap into.

Without elaborating, Chu also commented that Google was "betting on" HTML5 as a way to create apps. Google employees have previously made it clear that the company sees the Java-like core VM of Android as a stepping stone to a future where apps are created in HTML, as soon as web tools can support sophisticated apps.

That's something that undermines rather than builds confidence in Google's commitment to Android in general. Why should Google bother to create an app store if its future is aimed at web pages? In Google's case, either can be monetized with ads, so there's no reason to build the current Android platform to be anything more than a temporary placeholder.

Chu's comments came just days after Apple celebrated its 10 billionth iOS app download and is promoting an iPad-optimized library of over 60,000 apps.