Amazon.com launched its Amazon Appstore for Android applications March 22, and while it's tempting to speculate that the store foreshadows an Android tablet or smartphone, both the company and industry analysts say this isn't necessarily the case.
Amazon Appstore for Android hosts more than 4,000 applications, each of which users may test on a simulated Android phone. Customers can buy applications through their computer's Web browser, or they may download them to their Android phones or tablets through an Amazon Appstore application.
An Amazon.com spokesperson declined to say whether the e-commerce giant planned to sell Android gadgets to pair with its new app market. Even so, the spokesperson offered two key reasons why the company is selling Android apps.
The first is that Google's Android Market is like searching for an app needle in a huge software haystack. There are between 130,000 and 150,000 apps in the market, and Google hasn't exactly perfected a recommendation engine or ratings system to help winnow down choices. Apple's iTunes App Store, which boasts 350,000 apps, is much better at this.
"The sheer number of apps available today makes it hard for customers to find high-quality, relevant products at great prices," Amazon.com said. "We've spent years developing innovative features that help customers find and discover relevant products from our vast selection, and we're excited to apply those capabilities to the apps market segment."
Amazon.com will leverage its personalized recommendation engine to suggest applications users might be interested in based on their previous purchases and browsing activity on the e-commerce Website. Customer reviews and one-click payment options are also featured.
The second key reason is that mobile shopping is a big deal and getting bigger in the tech market and at Amazon.com, which offers an Amazon Shopping app for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone 7; Price Check by Amazon; Amazon Deals app; and Windowshop for iPad. Don't forget about the numerous Kindle apps either.
"An Appstore is a logical next step for Amazon," the spokesperson added. "We take mobile shopping very seriously, and across the company we are working hard to make great products and services available on mobile devices."
Yes, but wouldn't having smartphones and/or tablets with which to pair those "great products and services" make the mobile shopping experience even better? After all, the Kindle is making a killing paired with Amazon.com's digital book library.
Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said earlier this month that Amazon.com could create an Android tablet to connect users to Amazon's Prime free shipping and Instant Video service, recommendation engine and one-click purchasing.
Epps added that Amazon.com could also be setting itself up to be a payment platform for Android tablets made by Motorola Mobility, Samsung, HTC and others.
"I think this is the more likely scenario, actually," Epps told eWEEK. "iTunes has 200M credit cards on file; Amazon is one of the only other companies that comes close to that. Consumers feel more comfortable transacting via Amazon than Google, so layering Amazon payments on top of the Android Market could encourage consumers to buy more Android apps."
Epps' colleague, Forrester analyst Charles Golvin, added:
""In addition to payment support, there's something that Amazon does infinitely better than anyone other than Apple who is operating an 'app store' (quotes to prevent legal action from Cupertino): retail. You know, market apps, ease their discovery, run promotions, etc. I suspect Amazon simply sees software as yet another product category they can dominate, on tablets AND on phones.""
In other words, Amazon.com simply wants to sell oodles of stuff that people want, whether that be books, music, video-on-demand, furniture or Martha Stewart cookware. Apple has paid out $3 billion to developers in app sales, so clearly Amazon.com sees app sales are popular.
Since Apple's shop is closed, Android with its huge footprint and largely untapped paid app is the shiny, new choice. Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart summed it up best when he told eWEEK:
""Amazon is, first and foremost, a retailer. As the goods consumers buy are increasingly digital, Amazon wants to sell them. In this respect, moving from selling packaged software to software downloads is no different from selling books/ebooks or music/MP3s." "