Amazon's Android store: Disruptive or just meeting a market need?

Amazon took its first steps to developing an Android app store and the move is being portrayed as a zero sum effort that will make things potentially more confusing for developers. The reality: Amazon just makes the Android app pie bigger.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Amazon took its first steps to developing an Android app store and the move is being portrayed as a zero sum effort that will make things potentially more confusing for developers.

TechCrunch sums up Amazon's Android app store as an exercise in fragmentation, curation and recommendations. CNet News' Stephen Shankland notes that Android is "getting a notch more complicated for developers."

In a nutshell, Amazon is now opening its store for developers. You submit applications and Amazon approves them much like Apple does on its App Store. For Android apps, Amazon is a needed entry to the market. Google's Android marketplace is a bit Wild West. Some of us like Wild West. Most of us like a bit of curation. Toss in the fact most of us trust Amazon and it's a good candidate to do the Android app filtering thing. You can have a curated Android marketplace as well as one that will give you everything on the planet. My hunch is we'll buy Android apps from both. This opening screen tells you all you need to know.

Amazon's FAQ is a must read for developers. The key points go like this:

  • The Appstore launches later this year.
  • Android is the primary platform.
  • Amazon will pay developers 70 percent of sales price of app or 20 percent of list price, whichever is higher.
  • Your current Amazon account can get you started.
  • Amazon approves the apps.

Sounds familiar eh? The big question: Is Amazon's entry more disruptive or the equivalent of another retailer setting up shop in the app world? For now, it's the latter. Amazon's move into MP3 downloads was portrayed as Amazon vs. Apple iTunes. We know how that has turned out so far.

Also see: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

Few want to believe that Amazon is just cooking up another store. In the Android market game, it's Amazon vs. Google in a death match. And smaller stores like AppBrain, GetJar, MobiHand and SlideMe will be collateral damage.

Puhleeze. There will be enough Android apps to go around (although a few smaller players will die).

I hate to say it, but the more I ponder this Android market place scrum the more I buy Google's company line that Amazon just makes for a bigger app pie. I'd much rather have the death match, but can't argue that case right now.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt addressed the Amazon plans for an Android store on the search giant's last conference call in October. He was asked specifically about the Android market place competition. Schmidt said:

This is one of those sort of worrywart questions that we get all the time, that the success of one thing, could that impinge on something else, and in fact the rising tide lifts all boats.

And I would say that, again, what I hear is this sort of presumption that it's a zero sum game, and that one wins and another one loses. What's really happening is that all of the companies that are driving the web and web applications are all doing really well.

The goal of the stores is to make money for the people who are writing the software and the applications, and it's not a revenue goal for Google. So, there certainly will be multiple stores. There will certainly be the key one from us, and we think it's a net win for everybody. So, but it's not a primary focus on Google from a revenue perspective. It's really for the developers.

Few folks seem to buy that argument from Schmidt, but then again we media types just love zero sum games. It's more drama. The reality is that Android marketplaces sponsored by Amazon and Google could just make the developer revenue pie a bit larger.


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