Google’s War Against Apps

Google’s battle to erode the importance of apps is intensifying.

The search giant last fall secretly acquired an “app streaming” startup called Agawi whose technology allows people to access apps on their smartphone without downloading them first.

The acquisition, which hasn’t been previously reported, provides strong clues about the direction that Google is trying to move mobile software development.

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Meanwhile, as a stop-gap measure, Google has found ways to link to specific “pages” or “cards” within apps; the Google Now smartphone “assistant” app, for instance, can direct the app user to a specific page within an app so he or she can book a particular restaurant or read a movie review without opening up the app and executing a search. However, such functions require the companion apps—OpenTable and Flixster, in this case—to already be installed on the phone.

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For Google, though, it’s an effort to wrest back some of the power it’s lost as Web activity including searches for information has shifted to mobile apps that are installed on a device, rather than on traditional websites that Google can more-easily index for its search engine.