Amazon has confirmed plans to launch its own app store for Google Android devices. We first heard about the possibility of an Amazon app store a few months ago, and while it’s not quite ready for customers to use yet, Amazon has opened the doors to its developer program in an effort to get apps into the store before launch.
TechCrunch spoke to Amazon execs about the program and it sounds interesting. While most Android phones ship with access to Google’s Android Market, there are a few reasons hardware makers and consumers might want to look elsewhere. First, the Android Market is a bit of a free-for-all. Google doesn’t check applications before they’re published, which is great for developers that want to get their software listed right away — but also great for spammers, scammers, and the like. You have to report bad software before Google bothers to check and see if it meets their terms of service.
Second, not all Android devices ship with the Android Market. Notably, most tablets don’t currently meet Google’s requirements, so they don’t have Market access.
There are already a number of third party app stores that attempt to fill this niche, such as SlideMe or AppsLib. But they tend to have a tiny fraction of the number of apps available in the Android Market. Amazon just might have the clout to put together a serious competitor to the Android Market.
Like Apple, Amazon plans to vet applications before they’re listed, which could lead to fewer crappy apps in the store. The company also has some serious expertise in recommendations thanks to years of work on the main Amazon.com portal. When you sign in with your Amazon account, the company might not only be able to recommend apps based on the ones you’ve looked at and purchased, but also on your other Amazon history. Bought a Black Sabbath album recently? Maybe you’d be interested in a pack of Heavy Metal wallpapers.
Amazon also differentiates itself from other app stores due to its pricing structure. While developers can set a list price for their apps, Amazon will ultimately determine if an app goes on sale. Theoretically, the goal is to increase sales, so developers could wind up making more money from higher volume sales of cheaper apps. But it should be interesting to see how developers react to this policy.
On the down side, Amazon is going to have to figure out how to get its app onto Android devices. Right now if you buy an Android phone it probably has Google’s Market loaded. Amazon will have to work with phone makers and wireless companies to get its app store on board as well — or launch a pretty serious campaign to teach consumers to download and install the app store themselves.
On the other hand, I kind of get the feeling that Google doesn’t really care if it’s in the app store business anyway. If Amazon an come along and offer a better service, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Google simply partner with Amazon, much as it’s already done with the Amazon MP3 app for music downloads that comes bundles with many Android handsets.