Another gem to come from Google's I/O conference is news that Android-powered phones will be able to access some sort of centralized store to find and download applications to the handset. This will be great for developers looking to distribute their applications, as well as users seeking new functionality for their phones.Andy Rubin, the Android project leader for Google, didn't confirm the existence of an Android Store definitely, but he came close enough. The Register quotes him as saying, "It would be a great benefit to the Android community to provide a place where people can go to safely and securely download content and where a billing system would allow developers to get paid for their effort. We wouldn't have done our job if we didn't provide something that helps developers get distribution." During demonstrations, a button labeled "market" was visible on some Android screens, so it is possible that work on an application store is already well under way.
As a new market entrant, Android is going to need all the help it can get to spur adoption. One of the biggest issues facing the mobile industry is the discovery process of finding new content and applications for phones. Network operators have attempted to combat this with centralized stores where content can be purchased (think Verizon Wireless' Get It Now).
If Android phones can have access to a store where applications can easily be found, this will be a big boost for the platform. It will take away some of the fear that early adopters might feel about switching to the unproven operating system.
But Rubin made other comments that are noteworthy. The very nature of Android's open model and Apache license means that OEMs, software developers, and even network operators can tweak the APIs of the Android handset and vastly change the functionality of the phone. "They can add to it. They can remove from it. They make it their own. They can rip out all the Google stuff and put in all Yahoo stuff."
Herein lies what is perhaps Android's greatest strength and greatest weakness.