Google Play, the online app marketplace that Google launched back in March as a Android version of Apple’s iStore, is now offering a way for select developers to distribute apps internally within their organizations. The new service, called Private Channel, will enable developers classified as business, government, or education to have a separate organization-specific channel within Google Play as an online source for internally developed applications. Applications that fit under this special definition are generally designed specifically for use in-house, however before the launch of Private Channel, distribution of these organization-specific apps has been difficult. Anyone who has ever tried to download an app separately from the iStore or Google Play marketplace certainly knows this already.
Each Private Channel will be maintained by a domain administrator who will have the ability to control access to apps based on individual users or user groups. According to Google, this domain administrator must be someone currently employed by the organization, such as in-house IT staff, rather than a third-party developer. Approved users will then be able to access their Private Channel through their Android device – currently, users will not be able to access Private Channel via a web browser.
Private Channel is a welcomed addition for companies and non-profits alike who have enjoyed a similar mechanism from Apple for years. This move by Google will benefit organizations in two ways. First, it will allow companies to develop Android apps for employees to use for daily work activities. And second, it will streamline app beta-testing, as employees will now be able to download early versions of apps directly from Google Play instead of having to deal with the headaches of link-based downloads and third party testing packages. The powerful access (and restriction) tools available for Private Channel domain administrators will improve security of apps in development.
Overall, the launch of Private Channel is a welcomed addition for Android developers and should streamline the development process. It’s a long overdue step, but a very important one for Google as it continues to successfully shorten the gap between Apple and itself for mobile devices.