The idea here is to give developers a platform to address complaints, offer helpful tips, and let users know when features they’ve requested in an app review have shown up.
Developer responses will be public alongside reviews on a Google Play app listing. And, when a developer has something to say, Google will email the user who wrote the review to let them know there is a response.
So far it’s limited to “top developers,” which leaves a good opportunity for a competing app store to do better.
Update (2012-07-01): Matt Gemmell:
A review that you feel compelled to respond to is probably, in essence, a conflict situation. We have a rule of thumb for this: deal with conflict privately. Don’t shout at subordinates in front of the whole office. Don’t bicker with your spouse at someone else’s dinner party. It’s the same rule. It doesn’t matter what the tone or content is, on average; it’s still a crappy way to handle a situation.
One idea I’ve had is giving developers the ability to add a support link to a review.
There are certainly some problems with responding in public, but I still think it would be better than the status quo.