Last week, Google unveiled an option to install apps, not from Google Play, but from search results. More evidence that the firm desperately wants apps and the web to play nicely together.

Google really loves the web. The web has made Google a $527 billion company. Why wouldn’t Google love the web? Consumers love the web too. It lets them track down that rare book they’ve searched their whole life for, or read about particle physics or watch cats playing the piano.

But lately, people have discovered a new way of finding this stuff. Apps.

 Millions of businesses who have transferred the money they used to spend on classified ads and (even) sales people to one company: Google. Naturally Google wants to sustain this web/search habit for as long as possible.

So you can see why apps might be a problem. 

Google is not so sure about apps. Why? Because Google – for all its experimentation with eyewear and driverless cars – is a giant machine learning company. And this machine learning makes it brilliant at serving ads on the web.

Apps take people away from the web.

When I think about how Google has transformed advertising I think about my brother. He runs his own exhibition stand design company. Pre-Google, he spent much of his time calling new business prospects. Trying to get past defensive receptionists. Trying to convert uninterested marketers. It was time-consuming and tedious.

Then Adwords arrived. For a few pounds a month, he could buy some search terms and wait for the phone to ring. His costs (in money and time) were slashed. And every caller was ready to buy. He currently drives a Porsche.

There are millions of my brothers around the world (not literally – but I do have three). Millions of businesses who have transferred the money they used to spend on classified ads and (even) sales people to one company: Google. Naturally Google wants to sustain this web/search habit for as long as possible.

So you can see why apps might be a problem.

Sure, people searching for exhibition stands will probably continue web searching. But for flights? Just fire up the Expedia app. Food? Open up Yelp. Thus, a huge chunk of web search activity is diverting away. Now, obviously, Google is itself active in apps. Thanks to Android, it has its own app store, Google Play.

And just days ago, a lawyer representing Oracle disclosed that Google’s revenue from Android, since 2008, is $31 billion.

It’s a huge sum. But it’s all relative. Google makes at least $15m a quarter from ads. Let’s call that $400bn since 2008.

All of this explains why Google keeps on rolling out new ideas to reclaim mobile behaviour back from native apps. Here are a few:

  • Google Now. Swipe right to see a list of recommendations based on your browsing habits, calendar entries, location etc
  • App indexing. Do a search and see not just web page links but content locked inside native apps.
  • Streaming app content.

Now, it’s emerged Google is testing an option to install apps from inside Google search results without having to go to the Play Store. (Ironically, the feature is only available via the Google app and not via www.google.com).

It represents the latest experiment to claw back some action from native apps. You could call it an attempt to build the appternet. Though not if you love the English language.

tim-greenTim Green

Features Editor

MEF Minute

color-linkedin-128 color-twitter-128 color-link-128

Historically, Google’s app shenanigans were directed at Apple. But this latest could equally be targeted at Facebook, given that the social network has made such huge sums from paid-for app install advertising.

It all reflects how complex the power struggles are in mobile today. Time was when the big questions were which OEM sold the most phones and which MNO had the most subscribers.

Now mobile is a three way battle between a search company, a social network and a computer firm. With possibly a retailer (Amazon) in there somewhere. Amazing.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required