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Amazon plots Android store

Platform fragmentation or healthy competition?

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Leaked documents purport to detail the terms and conditions for Amazon's rumoured Android app store, and it seems the former bookseller is taking mobile applications very seriously indeed.

The terms and conditions were leaked to the Slashgear blog, and bear out earlier rumours that Amazon would be charging developers a one-time registration fee of $99, forbidding early listing in other stores and demanding parity pricing. All of this points to Amazon's aspirations being anything but modest, though strangely US-only, for the moment at least.

The company has yet to confirm that the leaked documents are genuine, but the legalese and lack of any great surprises lend credence. Amazon's pitch into selling mobile applications has been rumoured for a while, including the $99 fee, and the price parity is nothing the retailer doesn't already apply to book sales. The only real surprise is the US-only nature of the agreement, which would surely discourage developers who might otherwise sign up.

Those developers might also be put off by the fee, which is four times what they'll already have paid to Google to have applications listed in the search giant's Android Marketplace. Amazon is going to have to spend a great deal of money promoting its own store if anyone's going to take an interest.

Android was always envisioned as having multiple application stores, in contrast to Apple's single store. The idea is not only that application stores would compete on price (both in the cut given to developers and the price paid by customers) but that specialist stores would spring up and avoid the quagmire of mediocrity that the iTunes store has become. So one store might specialise in mindless games, while another would focus on business apps and a third might be stuffed to the gills with pornography.

The problem for alternative stores is that Google's Android Marketplace comes preinstalled on almost all Android handsets, and it's very hard to offer an alternative when the user has an equivalent icon already in front of them (as Mozilla and Opera will tell you).

SlideMe is one such alternative store, and focuses on building a community as well as providing an application store that doesn't require a Google Checkout account (interestingly SlideMe accepts Amazon Payments, as well as PayPal and the more popular credit cards). But getting users to download the SlideMe application store is tough, and getting developers to list in multiple places is equally challenging.

Amazon will have to address both those questions, and how it decides to go about that will dictate whether developers and customers turn to Amazon for apps as well as books and just about everything else. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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