Google has finally allowed businesses to create a private app store for employees.
As of December 4, businesses can set up a store that is only accessible by employees. Once apps are in the private store, employees can log into it with their company email address to view and download the apps.
The catch is that the private store is only available to Google Apps customers. That's not surprising because it's an easy way for Google to manage access to the private stores (Google is calling them Google Play Private Channels, not stores).
All publishing and billing features of the Google Play Store, like payment, user rating, and user feedback will also be available to the private store users.
The offering is a great first start but at least initially it lacks features that many businesses would want. For instance, businesses can't publish an app to a specific group of users. They can publish apps for specific countries and device models, though.
Also, a business can only have one private store, even if a company has multiple domains within their Google Apps account.
Businesses also won't be able to publish an app to both the public Google Play store and the private store. But Google said that functionality isn't available in the "initial release" which sounds like it might add that capability in the future. Google also said that "currently" users can only see the private store on their Android devices, not from a browser accessible on a computer.
Apple doesn't offer a similar private store but it does have a program for allowing businesses to send out in-house apps to employees.
Also, mobile device management software from vendors like Good Technology let administrators push enterprise apps out to Android and iOS users.
The new private Play store gives companies another way to easily distribute apps to workers. A simple email from IT could point workers to new apps in the store for them to download.
The new private store is a step in the right direction for Google to attract even more business users.