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Google has started testing a feature that will stream apps on Android devices when found through a result on search, reports Techcrunch. As of now the feature works only on phones that are in the US, are connected to WiFi and run Android Lollipop or higher.

The feature will work by running apps on a virtual machine on Google’s cloud platform, letting apps respond to user commands like it’s installed on their system. The feature essentially uses Google’s app indexing API, which lets developers feature content from within their mobile apps on Google search, to index the app content and keep it updated on the virtual machine. Note that earlier this year, Google had acquired Agawi, a startup that let users stream applications and use them before actually purchasing them.

The feature currently works with some 10-odd apps including Hoteltonight, Weather, My Horoscope, Useful Knots and New York Subway. To implement it, developers only need to integrate the app indexing API, although virtually running the app is currently available only for certain partners. The app indexing API itself was initially limited to select partners.

MediaNama’s take: Google’s primary business – search, relies on letting users access as much relevant content as possible. However, increasingly content gets locked within apps as search engines are not able to return results from within an app, as they can with a website. Google partially addressed this problem with the app indexing API, which lets it look inside apps for content to index. Still, this did not solve the problem that to use a function of the app, for example book a hotel, could not be done without actually installing the app first. With this move Google will let users make bookings, buy goods etc., without having to install the app, directly through the virtual app.

This move will benefit vendors as well. Myntra, for example, could let users buy from its app without actually creating a mobile website or requiring users to install the app. This will also help Google control search on mobile web and keep its search relevant. With this, Google wants to make the mobile web more like desktop web and specifically get users away from downloading apps and straight to the content.

Google’s other mobile web initiatives:

– Earlier this month, Google started penalising apps and mobile pages for displaying giant app install interstitial ads to users. Note that, the change in policy only affects app install interstitial, and not other types of interstitials.

– Last month, Google launched a new program called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which supposedly speeds up load times by plugging a piece of Google code into publishers’ websites.

– In May, Google said it was looking to add a buy button on its search results pages for products on mobile devices. The same month, it integrated tweets into its search results on smartphones.