ISA 2011: Fireside Chat with Google Android Group Manager Eric Chu

Google’s group manager for the Android platform,  Eric Chu, is on stage with us here at Inside Social Apps. His interviewer is Kim-Mai Cutler, lead writer for Inside Mobile Apps.

The live transcript (paraphrased in parts and edited for brevity)

KM: What is going on in app payments?

EC: Helping app makers monetize is very important to us, so we’ve been building an in-app payment system. We were actually going to release it last quarter, but with developers focused on their Christmas apps, we couldn’t get enough feedback to be comfortable launching. So look for it soon.

KM: What has held it back?

EC: My team, and the engineering team, we’re all involved in the preparation and development of the in-app system. Developers were busy, but now we’re completely focused on getting it out.

KM: What should developers do in the meantime? Should they use other methods or wait for you to roll out in-app payments?

EC: We’re focused on a user having a great experience, so we want to see a consistent purchasing experience from apps on the platform. Android as a platform is open, so developers have complete latitude to release apps, but we ask that you use our payment system on our app platform.

KM: Is it OK to use another SDK?

EC: I think our policy is very clear, so you’re fine as long as you do things within those boundaries?

KM: When in-app payments do roll out, are we looking at carrier billing? Other methods?

EC: I think it’s very important to separate how we build the application and the forms of payment. Carrier billing is an area that we’ve invested a lot in, we rolled out payments with AT&T in December and we’ll be doing that around the world. As we add additional forms of payment, developers don’t have to do anything.

KM: Does Google have in its culture to offer good payments, given that it has always been driven by advertising?

EC: My team is 100 percent focused on the success of the developers — are users downloading apps, are they buying them? You can expect to see more investment into merchandising, payments, discovery, downloading, those are absolutely top areas for us.

KM: Can you offer any specifics on paid apps?

EC: Nothing I can announce right now. Maybe it’s in the area of merchandising and billing.. when we first started with the Android Market, we had a vision of it being like the internet. But we found that some developers took advantage and uploaded apps that violated our terms. So we’ve created a team that looks at apps that violate policy and actively takes them down. That’s a way to improve our catalog and the consumer experience.

KM: When you say improved merchandising, what do you mean by that? How will you improve discovery?

EC: Nothing I can announce right now, but expect something to come really soon.

KM: And what about the ranking algorithm for the top paid apps?

EC: We get a lot of questions about our ranking algorithm. We really don’t want people to be able to game the system. A developer with deep pockets could just buy a lot of ads to get to the top. So we try to use other signals to help us understand, do users actually like the app? We’re trying to fine-tune to make sure that great apps do well.

KM: On iOS, some of these third-party companies say that it’s meritocratic enough that if you’re good you’ll do well.

EC: Yeah, but we’ve also seen cases where people will find themselves prompted to download apps to get extra credits, and then the app never gets used again. We want to use more signals to surface great apps.