Android Web Store Now Open For Business
Google unveiled a new, web-based Android Market at its Android event on Wednesday, Until now, Google offered Android apps only through a mobile-based store. Some third- party sites such as AndroidZoom have offered Android apps, although they lack the new web store's simple payment and acquisition processes.

The Market may be considered sparse compared to iTunes, but it's clean and functional. The main page has categories of games and applications listed vertically along the left side of the page. The main section of the page has three tabs: featured apps, top paid apps and top free apps. The featured apps range from a free Financial Times app to a $2.99 Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D app developed by Mobile Roadie

Music apps are some of the most popular Android apps. Pandora is the No. 2 free app and is Nl. 1 in the free music & audio category. PowerAmp, a music player that costs $4.99, is currently Android Market's #1 paid app and has been downloaded between 100,000 and 500,000 times. Shazam Encore, the premium version of the popular music identification app, is the No. 11 overall paid app and carries a $4.77 price tag.

Purchasing is easy. After logging in through a Google account, an Android owner selects the app, clicks the "buy" button, acknowledges the terms of service and completes the purchase. Whatever payment method is on file in the user's Google account will be used for the transaction. No sideloading is required -- the app immediately downloads to the mobile device.

There are a few other features. Developers can upload YouTube videos to promote their apps. And buyers can share their purchases via a Twitter link that resides on each app's page.

The Android Market hints at what Google could eventually do in the entertainment space. It's a far more visually appealing site that Google Books or the video rental page of YouTube. And it's not hard to imagine the Android Market someday becoming a hub for more Google offerings. iTunes, after all, started with music and later added TV shows, movies and mobile apps.

As of Wednesday, however, there was no news of a music service to go along with the new Android Market.

Google "briefly teased Google Music" at the event, according to a post at Search Engine Land, but did not reveal any details on the upcoming music service.

Android Adds In-App Purchase Functions
While the Android smartphone operating system has been surging in the past year, one glaring omission on the platform has been the ability for developers to make in-app sales. That's been a key feature driving music-based games on the iPhone -- think buying new songs for I Am T-Pain or Tap Tap Revenge 3. Today, Google announced a fix to that problem during a developer event at the company's headquarters.

In fact, Google featured Tap Tap Revenge 3 to showcase the new in-app purchasing capability, with Disney Mobile's Bart Decrem giving the demo. He said more than 25 million songs have been purchased from the Tap Tap Revenge games.

The in-app purchasing feature wont' be live until the end of next month, but expect all kinds of developers to jump on the ability. Freemium is the new business model for smartphone apps, and in-app sales are the way to monetize that. See our recent story on the economics of mobile apps.