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Google Tests Streaming Apps From The Cloud

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In a bid to make content that’s buried in apps searchable, Google will stream apps to Android smartphones.

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Google is taking a new angle of attack in the fight to find information. The company says tons of content is hidden inside applications and that it has found a way to make that content searchable and, more importantly, actionable, thanks to app streaming.

Google says it began indexing the content of apps two years ago. This way, searches discover content not only on the Web, but also within applications. Google has amassed more than 100 billion deep links to apps, including some of the most popular such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Wholly 40% of searches performed on Android smartphones now discover content that’s inside other apps.

There’s a small problem, however: Google can’t show information from within apps unless it finds matching content somewhere on the Web. Google’s tricky thinking found an interesting way around this issue.

Moving forward, Google plans to highlight app-first content in search results. For example, those seeking a hotel room may find results listed on Expedia.com as well as HotelTonight — an app that helps find hotel rooms at the last minute. How are people going to access the app-based results if they don’t have the app installed on their phone? Streaming.

“With one tap on a ‘Stream’ button next to the HotelTonight app result, you’ll get a streamed version of the app, so that you can quickly and easily find what you need, and even complete a booking, just as if you were in the app itself,” according to Google’s November 18 blog post. “And if you like what you see, installing it is just a click away.” In other words, Google will make it simple to download the app that returned the results.

(Image: Google)

(Image: Google)

The idea of app streaming is compelling. It will allow people to access and use a variety of apps that they may otherwise never choose to install. The move benefits developers, too, who may see an uptick in usage and installs.

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For now, app streaming is limited to Android smartphones operating on WiFi.

Google didn’t say why it carries that limitation, but it likely has to do with latency issues. Google didn’t explain how it is streaming the apps, either, and only said it is experimenting with new, cloud-based technology.

The company is dipping its toe into the app-streaming waters slowly. App streaming is only available for a small handful of applications, including HotelTonight, Chimani, Daily Horoscope (because horoscopes are so important!?), and New York City Subway MTA Map. Google expects to expand the selection of streaming apps over time.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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