Google Finally Gets Serious with Private Channel for Play Store

Brad Shimmin
Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

• Enterprise customers serious about supporting a BYOD policy no longer have to sideload corporate apps in order to support Android devices, now that Google has established a private channel in the Google Play store.

• This move is only one of many coming out of Google and other vendors that point toward a complex blending of personal and professional personas, the ramifications of which won’t be understood or more importantly “managed” for some time.

As is customary, one of the last things I do each day, aside from pour myself a nice cup of coffee is to do quick scan of Google’s collection of blogs, not in hopes of finding the odd nugget of interest interesting but more in fear of missing something major. You have to watch this company very closely. They have a penchant for both understatement and frequent product updates – daily updates. So when I saw the other day that the company had updated its Google Play store, though my first instinct was to ignore the news since Google Play was only a “consumer” service. That was the wrong notion.Google Play is no longer solely the purview of consumer developers. There is now a means by which companies can create a private app store area (Google Play Private Channel for Google Apps) where enterprise users can access and download private apps to their Android devices. This means, the Google Play Private Channel for Google Apps, is important because it allows enterprise developers to distribute, manage, and even earn revenue from their applications directly through the app store itself. Previously, administrators had to walk users through the complicated task of sideloading apps, which makes application updates, security and administration virtually impossible. All of the Google Play Store features (publishing, billing, support, feedback, etc.) are now there for enterprise apps, right alongside consumer apps.

And that’s what really hit home for me with this update. Google has been slowly sneaking feature after feature into Google Apps for Business designed to meld personal and professional personas. Earlier this year the company added a number of privacy controls to Hangouts, Gmail, Docs, and Calendar designed to help enterprise users create restricted meetings. The same goes for Google+, which now lets users segment posts for either broad, public consumption or private, controlled visibility with select peers, customers and/or partners. Google Drive too makes it relatively easy for a user to control how their docs are shared and accessed internally and externally.

It seems, then, that Google is building a single “prosumer” application portfolio that doesn’t see lines of division between the roles each of us play in our daily life. That is a very powerful idea, and a dangerous one as well. Right now, features like Google Play Private Channel for Google Apps operate across those divisions, but it does so with a number of caveats. Developers can’t publish a single app to both public and private channels or target specific user groups (only broad domain-level and country/mobile device assignments). The same goes for Google’s other role-crossing features. Using Google Apps for Business in this way puts a great deal of pressure on users, who must shoulder the responsibility of correctly using these features. Missteps and faux pas that could prove costly are not far from reach at any moment.

Thankfully, given Google’s past efforts, these limitations and dangers are only temporary. IT professionals unable to take these risks need only keep an eye on Google’s ever evolving engineering efforts. Watch those blogs!

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