Two-tier Google excludes Ireland and other countries from Android market

The 'Android' phone, Google's answer to the iPhone, was finally released in Ireland this week. This should have opened a lucrative market for Irish technology companies to develop and sell applications for Android. But a barrier to the Google payment system prevents Irish developers from selling their product. Only developers located in nine countries (all first-world) may register for the payment system. By Malachy Browne

Google Android is causing quite a stir this week. Pitched as the inherent rival to the iPhone, Android was released to the Irish market on the Meteor network on 1 November (Samsung also have an Android phone). Days earlier, the Android 2 software development kit was released. (Independent software developers use this to create Android applications.)

There is a wealth of Irish expertise in developing mobile phone applications. Lots of Irish companies sell mobile applications - from Irish-English dictionaries to Dublin Bus timetables to newspaper readers. Indeed, the Irish Independent’s iPhone reader was the top earning iPhone download this week. Priced at €2.39, it was a sure bet to cash in on the Irish diaspora (there are less than 50,000 iPhones in Ireland, but tonnes in the hands of Irish descendents overseas). So too, Vietnam, Russia, Cambodia and India have huge communities of savvy technologists ready to pounce on Android.

Developers from any country may register to be an Android developer. However, the applications must be sold through Google Checkout, which requires a Google Merchant Account. And Merchant Accounts may be created only in one of nine countries. Ireland is excluded. The nine countries are Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, and United States.

Politico asked Google why Ireland is excluded from Merchant Accounts, and when it will be included. Google responded:

“Google is currently working on enabling Ireland paid apps developer support for Android.  It is a priority for us and we hope to have it ready early in 2010.”

Google recommends that developers keep an eye on the official Android blog which will announce the availability of paid apps in Ireland.

In the coming months, several more mobile carriers are due to release phones that operate the Android system.