This morning, Amazon launched its Amazon Appstore Developer Portal, the first step towards the creation of its own Android App Store, which will exist outside the official Google Android Market. The Amazon Store has been the most highly anticipated of all third-party efforts to date, mostly because of Amazon's brand name recognition, business model and potential for marketplace disruption.

Change #1: Curation

Although there are several "alternative" Android app stores - that is, in fact, the beauty of the platform - Amazon's will likely be the first to have a major impact on the Android development community.

Unlike the official Market and other third-party sites, Amazon's application submission model is going to more closely follow Apple's when it comes to which apps will be allowed into the new marketplace. Currently, the Android Market is somewhat of a free-for-all - Google only steps in when the application developer is in violation of its Terms of Service, Terms which basically prevent harmful apps or malware from making their way to users' phones and tablets. However, in Amazon's case, apps will be reviewed to ensure that they work properly as outlined by the developer. They also must be safe, both in terms of consumer data privacy and impact to the mobile device itself. Could that mean no more battery-draining apps? No more "is this malware?" concerns? It sounds like it.

Those rules are not all that different than Google's own requirements, but the way Amazon is going about enforcing them is: it will check apps prior to app store deployment, not after problem apps are spotted in the wild.

In addition, the review process will be far more open than Apple's. Apps don't disappear into a black hole after submission, for sometimes months at a time, but their progress can be tracked at any time using the developer's Dashboard within the Developer Portal.

Amazon will also enforce some general guidelines: apps cannot be offensive, illegal, infringe on intellectual property or copyright and cannot contain pornography. However, Amazon notes that it doesn't want to stifle innovation by prescribing what constitutes good app design, it says. "Amazon is a big believer in innovation in general," reads an FAQ on the Developer Portal, "and we hope to feature many creative and innovative apps in the Appstore."

It's a small change in some ways, but in reality, it could have a long-lasting effect on the Android ecosystem. One of the problems - or benefits, depending on how you see things - with the open model supported by Google, is that it doesn't help weed out problem developers, amateur efforts and buggy apps. That means browsing for an app in the official Market can end up being a decidedly hit-or-miss experience. The best, most popular apps are in there, right alongside the apps that can't even manage to launch properly without throwing an error message on the screen.

Amazon will force developers in coding for quality if they want to play in what's clearly going to be one of the larger secondary app markets going forward.

Change #2: Pricing

The curated aspect of Amazon's Appstore, as unique as it is to the Android ecosystem, is not the only change.

The biggest change developers will be facing is the pricing model. Instead of the standard 70/30 split, developers tell Amazon what price they would like Amazon to list the app at. But Amazon doesn't have to sell it at that - it will sell it at whatever price it sees fit. Developers will still see a 70% cut of revenue generated, unless Amazon's deeply discounts the app or offers it for free. Then developers are promised a 20% cut or the original list price. Or, in other words, Amazon pays developers 70% of the sale price or 20% of the list price, whichever is greater.

While some developers may balk at these pricing changes, you still must acknowledge that Amazon's experience as a successful online retailer at least gives it some idea of how to market and sell goods, physical or virtual. And being listed in Amazon doesn't prevent developers from selling at whatever price they choose in Google's Android Market - the only requirement is that both applications must be updated at the same time.

Other Potential Benefits

There are few other reasons why Amazon's model could prove successful outside of its brand recognition, curation and pricing model.

  • For one, we don't know yet what its actual user interface will look like. If Amazon's appstore can offer a better end user experience that the Android Market (and let's face it, that wouldn't be overly challenging to do), both developers and consumers would benefit.
  • Amazon may also use its online retailing portal Amazon.com and the localized versions to promote the applications.
  • Amazon also has an established payments system trusted by end users and it works in more countries than Google Checkout. Although the new Appstore is U.S.-only at launch, it would be downright shocking if that remained the case in the long run.
  • Finally, there's a chance that Amazon is developing this marketplace in the advance of its own Amazon Android tablet. (It has been rumored). If so, the Amazon appstore would be present on a brand-name iPad competitor.

Source: TechCrunch