Changes to the small print of the Android Developers' agreement show Google's plan to hand over application revenue collection to network operators - a task they'll be glad to take on.
The changes, highlighted in a post on the Android Developers' blog, adds "authorized carriers" to the list of indemnified parties and creates a new section relating to payment processors, which should push Android handsets to the front of any mobile operator's advertising campaign.
The post even clarifies that the changes are "in preparation for some work we’re doing on introducing new payment options", just in case it wasn't already clear.
Operators would love to be able to sell applications and take advantage of the opportunities presented by in-application purchasing – selling application-specific bandwidth for example - but they also see application sales as compensation for rapidly-declining voice revenue.
Apple's iPhone ecosystem channels all the revenue from applications to Cupertino without the network operator getting a penny. This has inspired Nokia to try the same thing with Ovi, though Ovi does promise operator billing at some unspecified point in the future, while Samsung's Bada unapologetically follows Apple's lead.
That's got operators worried, which is why the GSMA has been diligently working on the OneAPI, which should allow any application to create billable events that function across network operators. So you could download a game from one operator, then change contracts and, within the game, buy an additional level with the cost appearing on the new bill.
Right now the OneAPI is only on trial in Canada, but network operators around the world are signed up to deploy it. It's possible that the changes relate to an operator-specific deal Google has planned, but integration with the OneAPI makes a lot more sense and would be more in keeping with the Google way of doing things.
Even if most of the revenue collected by the operators goes straight to the application developers, with Google perhaps getting a cut for running the Marketplace, the network operators will be happy to be part of the chain - happy enough to ensure that Android handsets form an important part of their heavily-promoted portfolio. ®