Google has made a low-key acquisition of startup Agawi, which enables people to access apps on their phone via the mobile web without the need to download them, letting people try them before they commit their phone memory and their cash.
According to The Information, Google snapped up the company last autumn, as part of its plans to fight back against the dominance of apps and return people to the mobile web, where its search backbone is more likely to be interacted with.
Agawi's website has been shut down and Google hasn't confirmed the acquisition, but three former employees are now listed as working at Google as software engineers, including the company's co-founder Rohan Relan.
Agawi's 'app streaming' technology could form a central part of Google's tactics for getting people off apps and back onto the web. While Google's Android Play store contains more than 1m apps, and the firm has paid out over $7bn (£4.4bn) to app developers, it still has good reason to crave a return to the web.
As apps dominate people's mobile use, less and less searches are made using Google, limiting both the amount of information it has access to, and the revenues it can generate through search advertising, which remains one of its primary sources of income.
Integrating Agawi's technology into Google Search could give people more reason to search for apps online, rather than within the App Store or Google Play Store apps, and provide more in-depth data on consumer's app shopping habits.