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Amazon preps upmarket US Android app emporium

Cream-off shop intended to suck in passers by

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Amazon is inviting Android developers to upload their applications for listing in a better class of app store, at a price set by Amazon and only available within the USA.

The application store will launch later this year, but developers who sign up now get a free year before they have to start stumping up the $99 annual fee. For their money, developers get listed in a store that reviews every application submitted, and rejects the tat as well as the unstable or inadequately tested, but more importantly Amazon can offer access to shoppers who only dropped in to buy a book.

That last factor is probably the most important differentiation. Offering higher-quality applications isn't a big deal as user reviews already push the cream to the top of Google's Android Marketplace, and Google's refund policy deals with the most-unstable applications even now it's been reduced to 15 minutes. Google will even vet and, if necessary, remove applications in its own store... once a complaint has been made.

But the Android Marketplace only appeals to those who've already decided to buy an application for their phone, which severely limits the pool of users to whom it can sell. Amazon will promote mobile applications in the main store, based on user purchases and behaviour, so this could bring in customers who've never considered buying an application for their phone before.

Apple achieves the same thing with iTunes, and massive advertising campaigns, but as Android users become increasingly non-technical, there's an increasing customer base who've never sought out an application. Amazon would, arguably, do even better targeting Symbian handsets as there are a huge number of users who've never downloaded an app, but most of them live outside the USA, so for the moment Amazon will be supporting Android only.

Once an Android application has been approved by Amazon, it will appear in the store, which will open its doors later this year, but not necessarily at the price the developer was asking. Amazon reserves the right to discount (or increase) the price as it sees fit, but promises to pass back 20 per cent of the developer's price, or 70 per cent of the sale price – whichever is greater. So an application submitted with a price of $10, by a developer expecting $7 per sale, could be sold by Amazon for a fiver with the developer getting $3.50, or Amazon could start giving it away and pass back $2 for every download.

That gives the store the chance to offer sale prices, or create bundles of products, without having to negotiate the details with every developer, not to mention allowing Amazon to undercut the opposition for those must-have apps.

Android was always envisioned having multiple application stores, and a few already exist, including AppBrain and SlideMe, but those are only useful for users already looking for a mobile application; Amazon will be hoping to attract the majority who don't yet know that they really want a copy of Angry Birds. ®

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