Google Play might soon prove a misnomer: the search engine giant is expanding its app hub to include internal apps for employees, via what it calls the Google Play Private Channel.
“Whether you’ve built a custom expense reporting app for employees or a conference room finder, the Google Play Private Channel is designed to make your organization’s internal apps quick and easy for employees to find,” read a Dec. 4 note on the Official Google Enterprise Blog. Organizations can use the Google Play Developer Console to upload those apps, which employees can download by inputting their company email address.
Google offers a further breakdown of the Private Channel on its App Documentation & Support page. “A Google Apps for Business, Education, or Government domain can have a Private Channel on the Google Play Store,” it reads at one point. “The Google Apps domain administrators can allow domain users to register with the Android Developer Console to publish Android applications to the Private Channel.” Google Play Store offers application-publishing features such as user authentication, virus and malware detection (always important), device targeting, and user feedback.
However, IT administrators and CIOs won’t have the ability to publish their private Google Play offerings to iOS devices, Windows Phones, and BlackBerry smartphones: the apps are strictly for Android devices. Nor can an organization publish an app to a private channel and Google Play at the same time.
Each organization is only allowed one private channel, even if a Google Apps account is set up for multiple domains; that being said, multiple publishers within a particular organization can publish applications, with each publisher operating independently. Administrators can’t publish an app to a specific group of users, but can target specific countries or device models.
Google Android has achieved widespread penetration of the mobile device market over the past few years, according for 75 percent of the 181.1 million smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2012 (according to IDC). Certainly more businesses are permitting employees to bring Android devices in-house as work devices, further increasing its market-share. But that’s also come at some cost: according to a recent report from firm Bit9, for example, roughly a quarter of the apps in Google Play are either “suspicious” or “questionable” from a security standpoint. A private app channel might ease some of those concerns.