Q&A: Amazon's Appstore director on using AWS for building mobile apps

Summary:We sat down with the director of Amazon's Appstore to find out how developers can use AWS for building apps from start to finish.

How Amazon differs from other app stores: "Because we sell more than apps and games, we have some unique opportunities to work with developers and market their IP -- whatever channel it happens to be in," Rubenson said, adding that whether it's video shorts or other digital content, Amazon has the power to market all of it together.

He continued that Amazon also has the resources to find customers who might be interested thanks to data about previous purchases and shopping behavior.

"We love to work one-on-one with developers to see who we're targeting," Rubenson continued, adding that Amazon has both the data as well as an established and consumer-trusted brand that lends itself to encouraging things like in-app purchasing for physical goods.

How Amazon's Appstore guarantees safe apps for customers: "We test every app before publishing in our store," Rubenson affirmed. "First we just want to make sure they work well for majority of our customers -- not only for the Kindle Fire but also other Android devices."

Rubenson added that there are content guidelines in place to ensure there's nothing "super offensive" in the Appstore. Perhaps most importantly, Rubenson asserted that Amazon is actively checking for malware before publishing it to the Appstore.

He admitted that can cause a bit of friction, but he touted it's the "right thing" for the Amazon customer base.

Being that the Kindle Fire (among other Android devices) is also advertised as a family-friendly one, Rubenson cited a feature called "Kindle Freetime."

Rubenson described that this is based on the trend of parents passing the tablet to kids in the backseat of a car to keep them entertained while in transit. After seeing this trend emerge with the release of the first Kindle Fire, Rubenson said that Freetime was an experience built from the ground up for the second generation.

Essentially, it's a digital "playpen" in which the parents can designate which content is available for their children to view. Furthermore, it also prohibits purchasing and turns all location-based features off.

"We think it's another great feature driving engagement and discovery, especially for children-oriented content," Rubenson reflected, adding that it also encourages engagement with the parents, who could then become fans of particular developers and their IP.

On educating developers about privacy concerns and app permissions: Privacy and the limits of permissions on apps might be a never-ending debate topic -- especially as the data generated by mobile apps grows exponentially bigger by the day.

There are many possibilities about how that data can be used to improve the user experience, but that might not be much of a justification to many consumers. Rubenson replied that "Android by design is a declarative model," explaining that the developers and mobile app stores have their guidelines, but ultimately it's the consumers who decide what is appropriate for them or not.

"Clearly the apps are Android apps, so they're using the same permissions framework," Rubenson clarified. "From a consumer's perspective, we have a page where we explain our website and what each permission means."

Rubenson noted that if the Appstore team spots a permission that might be "odd," it could be flagged and halted from publishing until further review.

How Amazon fits into the Android ecosystem and its relationship with Google: "We interact with Google in so many different ways," Rubenson affirmed, noting diplomatically that "it's a big relationship that's existed for many years."

That said, Rubenson argued that in terms of mobile apps specifically, Amazon knows "a ton" about its customers' activity over the years through the online retail arm, which he asserted "can drive discovery that wouldn't be happening away."

Rubenson posited that's good for the Android ecosystem overall, but he also asserted that when it comes to Android tablets, the Kindle Fire has been the driver for encouraging developers to optimize their apps for tablets in general rather than just settling for an enlarged (and very un-user friendly) version of smartphone apps.

Image via Amazon

Topics: Cloud, Amazon, Mobility, Developer


Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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