Wednesday, January 05, 2011, 12:30 pm PT (03:30 pm ET)
Amazon, Apple, LG launch new app stores, Google Chrome Web Store dries upAs Apple prepares to bring its wildly successful App Store phenomenon from iOS to the Mac, Amazon is launching its own Android app store while LG and others open TV apps stores, even as existing ones, including the Chrome Web Store, flounder.
It's been nearly three years since Apple opened its original iPhone App Store to resounding success. Since then, the company has constantly refined its App Store policies and practices in anticipation or reaction of users' and developers' expectations, expanding to include iPad apps last year, and tomorrow extending to Mac apps.
Every other smartphone platform has worked diligently to copy Apple's success, in many cases radically revamping their existing stores to pattern them after Apple's. Nokia's Ovi market for Symbian devices, BlackBerry's App World, and Google's Android Market have worked hard to copy the App Store, but without nearly as much success.
Palm and Microsoft were both induced to scuttle their existing mobile platforms and create entirely new ones with app stores closely modeled after Apple's, the Palm webOS and new Windows Phone 7 app stores), while new platforms, including Samsung's Bada, have similarly opened new mobile software markets.
Attracting enough attention from both developers and users to all of these new stores is difficult. While every store offers the basics like Twitter and Facebook and a handful of the most popular games, in order to stand out, new app stores need to deliver fresh apps on a regular basis. Doing this at the same rate as Apple is proving to be a tremendous challenge for vendors of new and revamped mobile platforms.
An Amazon app store for Android
One of the biggest problems for Google's Android platform is that there's no great app store; there are several options, with Google's own Android Market being the most prominent.
However, developers—including DoubleTwist, which serves as Android's biggest supporter in terms of making Android apps easy to use and buy—are critical of Google's hands off approach, noting that Android Market is overrun with intellectual property ripoffs and fake junk posing as legitimate apps. Malware is also a problem, not just for the official store but also for alternative Android apps stores.
Amazon hopes to solve this problem by taking over Google's role as the main retailer of Android's apps. The company's new Amazon app market, scheduled to open sometime "later this year," will attempt to be closer to Apple's App Store experience, offering a curated experience that hopes to prevent the Android catalog from being lost in a sea of knockoff junkware.
Amazon's fire sale policy
Amazon's retail prowess certainly positions it as one of the best hopes for a good Android app store. However, Android is adding some of its own quirks into its new store model. That includes reserving the right to deeply discount developer's titles at its own whim, part of Amazon's developer agreement in sections 5.g and 5.i.
The company will allow developers to set a list price, which Amazon will then slash as it deems necessary to drive sales. As with Apple's App Store, Amazon's developers will get a similar 70 percent share of the proceeds, although in Amazon's store, those proceeds may only amount to 20 percent of the list price if Amazon chooses to put their apps in its bargain bin. Apple allows developers to set and change their own app prices as they wish.
Amazon's "we will price your apps" approach may drive sales volumes, but it also opens up a new can of worms for some developers. While neither Google nor Amazon demand that the apps they carry be exclusive to their app stores, Amazon's developer agreement section 3.a stipulates that developers must make available to Amazon all the apps they sell on any other market (including Google's Android Market or third party market).
However, other markets stipulate that developers can't list their apps on other stores for cheaper. Because Amazon is taking price control and store listing choice away from developers, they're now stuck in a conundrum of being unable to sell their apps across multiple stores without running afoul of the rules of each.
On page 2 of 3: Google welcomes Android competition, Software theft and ad business model collapse
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