Google hasn't been afraid of disrupting markets in the past, but it's becoming a lot more docile lately. Especially when it comes to Android, Google has been making quite a few compromises with the carriers, despite being seemingly determined the upheld the status quo.
The latest move, though relatively minor, adds up to a number of small steps Google has been taking, abandoning its independence in return of market share.
AT&T customers in the US will be able to pay for apps in the Android Marketplace via the carrier and have the purchases added to their monthly bill.
It is not the first carrier in the US to do so, T-Mobile users have been able to pay this way for more than a year. At the same time, the Android Marketplace could sure need more payment option and some users might prefer paying like this.
But it does look like Google is simply ceding more ground to the carriers, which have always dominated the way phones are sold, and with what features and software, especially in the US.
Exactly a year ago, Google was proposing a great new way of buying a phone. Rather than choosing a carrier first and then picking whatever phones that carrier wanted to sell you, users would be able to buy the phone they wanted, unlocked, and then simply pick the operator they preferred.
The Nexus One was to be not only the best Android phone but it would also herald a new way of selling phones, online with a choice of carriers. It didn't pan out as Google had hoped, while sales were moderately strong and the Nexus One is still a great Android device, it was soon clear that the experiment had failed.
At the same time, 2010 was Android's big year when it might have finally taken the lead in the smartphone market. But it didn't come without sacrifices the biggest being the pact concerning net neutrality it reached with Verizon. Hopefully, Google may start taking the reigns once again when Android is powerful enough, but, then again, it may end up too satisfied with itself to do anything.