Google Boutique: What a new kind of app store might mean for Glass app developers

Editor's Corner
Shane Schick

When developers submit an app in Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play, they know what consumers will end up seeing: a name, an icon, a description and maybe some screen shots. Which is fine for the average Android app, but as the use cases for Google Glass begin to explode, the world may need a lot more detail about what's available for download.

Online observers at ReadWriteWeb and VentureBeat recently noticed a reference in Google's recent updates to something called "Google Boutique." Though no one knows anything for certain, there's a suspicion that the company may be readying some kind of secondary app store that will complement its next-generation wearable computing devices. This could be a good thing, if it means that it will simplify the installation process for consumers who may be unused to apps that run on something that sits across the bridge of their noses. For developers, though, the prospect of a Google Boutique could raise some concerns.

If Google Glass apps have their own marketplace, does that mean developers won't be able to submit them to Google Play? If they can submit to both, will the submission process be different, and if so, how? If Google Boutique is a place to purchase physical goods (like Google Glass itself, for example), should developers be thinking about partnering with accessory manufacturers that could benefit from complementary apps? Most importantly, would a store for Glass-specific apps assist developers with discoverability, or will they have to rethink the way they market apps to a wearable computing audience?

It's unclear whether a product like Google Glass will ever become a mass-market hit. At least in the early stages, it will probably appeal to a specific niche audience, kind of like the Bluetooth earpieces of a few years back. With that in mind, developers that want to stand out by creating a Google Glass app need to consider that these (probably) more tech-savvy users will be able to figure out the installation process and features pretty readily, but everyday consumers may be another story. The successful marketing of Google Glass apps may require more detailed video tutorials, diagrams or simple instructions that could flash across the device in order to get users engaged quickly and easily.

No doubt Google will provide more details on whatever Google Boutique is in due time. In the meanwhile, why not pretend a secondary app store already exists? Focus not only on creating a compelling app for wearable computing users but the kind of "quick start" guide that could be integrated across whatever options Google eventually makes available. Explore voice and gesture-based technologies that could enhance the buying process as well as the actual use of the app. Design, in other words, so that if and when Google Boutique opens its online doors, the company's choice of its first Featured App is already staring them right in the face. --Shane