Google Delivers Enterprise App Store for Android

Yesterday, Google announced the availability of an “enterprise app store” for Google Android devices. Formally named “Google Play Private Channel for Google Apps,” the new functionality allows enterprise customers with custom Google Apps domains to create a private channel within the Google Play Android store for distributing enterprise-specific apps. The apps are seen only by enterprise users who belong to the enterprise domain.

On the surface, this may not seem like a big thing, but enterprise IT departments have been requesting an enterprise app store from Apple and RIM for years. Fundamentally, enterprises want an easy way to be able to distribute and update enterprise-specific mobile apps without having to build something themselves or publish them in the publicly accessible consumer app stores. IT departments have been asking why they can’t just leverage the existing, highly scalable app store infrastructure that’s already deployed by the device manufacturers.

Google’s help page describes today’s functionality as being little more then a selective filter over the consumer Android app store. All the basic Android app store requirements remain in place, including such things as enterprises registering as app store publishers and paying the $25 registration fee. The main difference is that enterprise users can create a “Private Channel,” administer which applications appear in that channel, and configure who can access it. Even the regular Google Play billing infrastructure remains operative. Presumably, enterprises would set the prices for enterprise apps to zero, or possibly use the feature as a way to do user-specific charge-back. Of course, Google would get its normal cut of app store revenue in this case.

There are still a couple significant limitations with the feature at this point:

  • Enterprises can only have a single Private Channel
  • A given application can only appear in a Private Channel or the main, public app store, but not both

In spite of these current restrictions, this is a big step forward for mobile app distribution within large enterprises, ultimately enabling fully-sanctioned BYOD support. Google just threw down the gauntlet, and I would expect that Apple and RIM will be forced to respond quickly.

(via Infoworld)

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