Apparently Google is not impressed by Apple's 1.5 billion app sales. They've got no plans of instituting an App Store of their own (the Android market hardly counts), and it's not because they're intimidated by Apple's success. Google doesn't believe that apps are going to be a part of the future of the smartphone market. They're popular now, sure, but that's just because the Next Big Thing hasn't come along yet.
So what is the Next Big Thing? According to Google, the future of the mobile marketplace lies in browser-based applications. There are too many different smartphone operating systems and too many different app markets to work in the long-term. The current state of affairs is bad for developers, who have to build multiple versions of the same app, and bad for customers, who have less choice as a result of the divided market.
Things in the app world are confusing now and, with Verizon's announcement earlier this week, they're about to get a lot worse. Verizon is just the first carrier to try to start their own app store. Their controversial decision to ban manufacturer app stores from phones sold on their network is sure to generate conflict with Apple. Once other carriers try the same thing, all hell is going to break loose.
While it may not be obvious now, Google says that the current app model has already failed. The future lies in browser-based applications. Browsers are getting more powerful every year, and Google foresees an increasing number of smartphone apps being delivered through browsers. When that starts to happen, they say, developer costs are going to drop like a rock.
There are numerous benefits to browser based applications over traditional apps. The lower cost of development is a big one, as is the potential it creates for an app market that crosses all brand and OS differences. Someday soon we might all get our apps from the same place.