Google may be looking at May for a full release of much anticipated in-app billing features, at least according to an e-mail sent today by a payments company the search giant recently acquired to former customers.
In a letter leaked to TechCrunch, Jambool, which was behind virtual currency platform Social Gold said it will discontinue the service in favor of a Google in-app payments product in May. But Jambool customers can use the company’s merchant console through September and get financial statements through February of next year. Google acquired Jambool last August for a reported to $70 to 75 million, just as the company was being cornered on the Facebook platform by the emergence of Credits.
Google’s in-app payments product is currently in beta testing. A handful of developers, including Disney’s Tapulous, have gotten their hands on it to experiment with in hits like Tap Tap Revenge. But it’s not out to consumers yet.
In-app billing promises to bring Android developers the income that has long eluded them on the platform, at least compared to what can be made on iOS. Across multiple platforms including iOS, developers are transitioning from reliance on upfront paid apps and advertising to a model that resembles what has worked on the Facebook platform — virtual goods. Two developers, Pocket Gems and TinyCo, have raised sizable rounds from Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz respectively on the bet that dominant gaming companies will rise in the next 12 months.
There are a number of remaining questions, however, about how Google will implement in-app payments. Google’s Eric Chu, who oversee the company’s relationship with the Android developer community answered a few of these in an interview in January.
1) Can it execute payments well? Part of the original reason why Google Checkout turned out to be so lackluster, at least from our understanding, was that it suffered from a convoluted vision. It was initially conceived as a product that would help small to medium-sized businesses, but then internal politics turned it into a product aimed at larger corporations, which require more time-consuming custom work. Secondly, it’s unclear how the product is being internally managed — how much is it under the purview of the Android team, and how much is it under the oversight of the commerce group under eBay veteran Stephanie Tilenius?
2) How strongly will Google enforce the use of its approved payment methods in the Android marketplace? Developers selling content, goods or services within apps on the Android Marketplace have to use an “authorized Payment Processor,” which basically means Google Checkout or direct carrier billing. There are two exceptions: if you sell physical goods or services like movie tickets or digital goods that can be consumed outside of the application, which is presumably the loophole that companies like Amazon or media publishers can use to sell songs or content through other payment systems.
Conceptually though, we find Android’s payment policies less problematic than on other platforms. There will be multiple Android app stores, some of which will be heavily promoted by carriers like Verizon or by competitors like Amazon, which developers can turn to if they want to use alternative payment methods.