Google reveals open Android Market to rival iPhone's App Store

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Google on Thursday afternoon provided first details of a marketplace for phones based on its Android mobile platform — including word that its store won't be as tightly monitored as the Apple-run shop for iPhones.

While Google will host the new store, now called Android Market, the company stresses that its role is only to act as a central point of distribution rather than to filter content. The decision on policy is said to have even influenced the formal name for the service.

"We chose the term 'market' rather than 'store' because we feel that developers should have an open and unobstructed environment to make their content available," Google's Eric Chu says.

To that end, Google likens its system to YouTube, where the only requirements are to register as a distributor and to provide a description for the app on the store. The search engine pioneer doesn't say what if any policing it will provide for rogue apps, but explains that the Market will have a feedback and rating system as with its well-known video site.

The store will have a monitoring tool to provide feedback on apps after they're released, the company adds, and will flag an app's features to warn users in advance when they might pose a security risk.

Google's Android Market interface Google's Android Market interface

Although Google had already tipped its hand as to its likely direction two months ago in a presentation, the now official status of Android Market puts Google in the unusual position of both challenging and supporting Apple's iPhone software efforts at the same time.

The search firm's resources form the basis of iPhone's Google Maps and Safari search but now indirectly undercut the App Store, whose operating principle is fundamentally different from that in Android's Market. Apple is the sole judge of whether apps will be posted to its service and has already made it a point to pull apps it or its partners consider objectionable, including the recently pulled violent comic Murderdrome, the cosmetic I Am Rich app, and the tethering utility NetShare.

Android will also allow installing apps outside of the Market for most users, while Apple only allows such exceptions for development, education, or enterprise customers.

Google's effort will take some time to appear in users' hands. The first Android phone isn't expected until the fall, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company also cautions that the Market will ship as a beta and that only free apps will be available at first, with a paying system and other aspects only due afterwards.

Nonetheless, Market even in its rough state has the potential to create a greater conflict of interest between Apple and Google; the latter's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, has already had to occasionally leave Apple board meetings when the discussion switched to a handful of iPhone-related topics.