Why Is Amazon Making An Android App Store?

Judging by the leaked terms and conditions, Amazon plans to swagger into the Android world with an alternative app download store and fists a-whirling. Are they building it to co-exist with Android's Market... or for an Android-powered SuperKindle?

As you may know, Google isn't exactly a liberal, supportive father when manufacturers want to fool around with their open-source software in the back of a car. They actually have some surprising restrictions - though, really, they're not that surprising when you consider it's in their best interests to protect the quality of Android and thus their future lineage.

Google's potential suitor, Amazon, has been very successful with its Kindle range - so successful, in fact, that you can pretty much call the race now. Would they really develop a full-blown tablet, as the same source who told TechCrunch about the app store claims? Or would they rather develop a Kindle device that uses parts of Android, such as only the browser but not Google Maps, with a primary use for downloading ebooks?

Those rumours about colour touchscreen Kindles came from somewhere after all, and we do know that their hardware division Lab126 had been advertising for 80 jobs back in August, mostly for hardware specialists. Hardware specialists for new ranges of products.

Imagine if Amazon wanted to launch a Kindle tablet running Android, but didn't want to shell out for camera components. Or didn't want to fit an accelerometer in. Or navigational buttons, or any other features that Google requires of its hardware partners who want access to the Marketplace on their Android devices.

Enter Amazon's app store. Bam! Suddenly developers can get their goods onto this mystery device, and users can play Angry Birds - or, at least, the Amazon App Store version of it - in bed until 4am on the guise that they're reading Tolstoy.

It's been suggested that Amazon's app store will only be available to US Android users. Do you remember how long the Kindle took to launch outside of the US? Years. And even then they were still shipping them from the States to whichever countries wanted them. To develop an app store that will never see the drizzle of a cold Melbourne morning or smell the scent of The Netherland's tulips wafting in from the window is absurd. Crazy-talk, when over 25 per cent of Android users live outside the US.

The alternative, of course, is that Amazon really is launching a rival app store to Market. Something for smartphones and tablets.

To say there are a few flaws with that idea is putting it mildly, not least when you consider the helluva time they'll take convincing developers to cough up the $US99 to join their developers' program, when Google only charges $US25.

The obvious question I'd like to ask Amazon, if that's what they're really considering, is whether we even need another app store on Android. Sure, we've seen some carriers preload app stores on phones before, such as Verizon with their V-Cast, and even the porn store MiKandi does considerably well (racking up 80,000 downloads in its first month) - but another app store offering competing titles to Android's very own Market?

Well, I guess that's what Google meant by "open".

At the very least, we can expect their app store to light the cracker under Google's arse that it so sorely needs. Google's Market is clunky, and while they may've given it a lick of paint or two in the three years since it launched, there's no disputing that it's a mess. I say this as a loving Android user, HTC Desire in hand.

Given Amazon's proven track record in developing platforms, I'd hope to see a browseable website, something akin to Amazon's Kindle ebooks database or even Apple's iTunes website for searching for apps and recommending to friends.

Time will tell what Amazon has up its sleeve for both developers and Android users, but I have a feeling they've got greater designs on Google's daughter than just the size of her apps.

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