You can only pay for apps in 13 out of the 46 or so countries where Android phones are available. For those of you who like stats, 13 in 46 works out to less than 30%. Contrast this with Apple’s App Store, which supports paid apps in 90 countries. This is a huge advantage iPhone developers currently have over Android developers.
The cynical view: Google prefers free Android apps over paid ones, because free apps try to make money through ads, and Google serves nearly all the in-app ads for Android apps.
In addition, 57% of all Android apps are free, as opposed to Apple, which is about 25%.
The true customers of Google, like the dying Main Street Media, are its advertisers. It tries to bring consumer eyeballs to the ads so that it makes money. It tries to get developers to help drive the eyeballs to ads. Google does not directly make money from those eyeballs, which is why it can afford to give away all of its products. They all drive ad eyeballs.
So, the needs of Google are not necessarily congruent with those of customers or developers. If there is a conflict between customers and/or developers and advertising, Goggle has to select advertising. That is who pays the bills.
TANSTAAFL. Apple gets 30% of every paid app but nothing from free apps. So it is easy to see why it might push for more paid apps (This might change with iAd where Apple will get 40% of the revenue.) But Apple’s model has been to serve the customer and developer directly, and to get paid directly by them.
It does not support itself by the indirect inflow of money from an outside source, whose needs do not parallel those of the users.
There is an interesting book called Good Work which looks at areas where ethics and excellence overlap. It looked at the Newspaper industry and found little overlap, mainly because the media’s customer was the advertising interests. They paid the bills, so when anything conflicted between the needs of the readers/reporters/editors and those of the advertisers, the advertisers eventually won.
Something similar may very well happen to Google. Their fate is really in the hands of the advertisers not the people who rely on it.