Friday, February 20, 2009

Paid Applications Come To Android

A number of blogs have commented that Google's Android Market has added support for paid applications. While having the honor of paying for software on yet another platform might seem dubious at first, it does potentially open the door for more sophisticated applications which require more work than a hobbyist software developer is willing to do.

A case in point is Quickoffice, a new application for managing and viewing Microsoft Office applications on Android. Quickoffice has traditionally been something of an also ran piece of software on other mobile platforms. When I used Treo smartphones, Quickoffice was the MS Office compatible software suite that was not Dataviz's Documents To Go, the application Palm has bundled with just about every Treo it has ever built. And while Docs To Go wasn't perfect, it was slow and Dataviz tended to nickle and dime users—frequently charging high prices for relatively small upgrades, it was good enough that I didn't bother to check out competing products.

Now Quickoffice is the first Office compatible application out for the Android platform. And it comes at a very reasonable price, $7.99—a fraction of what it costs on other software platforms. It seems likely that Quickoffice for Android was probably rushed in an attempt to be the first Office application on Android. It is read only, you can't use Quickoffice to edit documents yet and it still doesn't support Powerpoint. And it wasn't able to open all of my of Word documents (but the ones it did open displayed properly).

But the point is that it is out and it is out first before any other competing application. It is also cheap and the Android Market makes it scarily easy to buy. I just tapped on the "Buy" button and because I've used Google Checkout before Google already had my credit card information. All I had to do was check the disclaimer that says, "I have read and agree with Google Checkout's terms of service blah, blah, blah" and confirm my purchase and Quickoffice started to download and was installed on my T-Mobile G1 in seconds. Like I said before, scary.(Incidentally, when you check the disclaimer, the Android browser actually launches and displays Google Checkout's terms of service. I suspect that most people don't even read the terms of service on when they pay for something online so Google is being quite responsible here.) So Quickoffice has a nice temporary advantage. A lot of people will want to use the keyboard on the T-Mobile G1 to edit Word and Excel files and right now they are (or rather they will be once Quickoffice is capable of editing documents) the only solution for this problem. And since Quickoffice is also capable of reading text documents, it might turn into a fair e-book reader if the developer is interested in moving in that direction.

Now that I've had my T-Mobile G1 for a number of months, I'm starting to look at other phones that I might move to in the future. I'm especially interested in the Palm Pre. I used a Palm or Handspring Treo as my phone for almost a decade and would be very interested in returning to that platform if it lives up to the hype that it is currently generating. But Android's growth and improvements make me think that I might stick with my G1 for longer than I thought....

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