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Summary:

Amazon last week launched a developer program in advance of its opening of a store for Android apps. The move underscores the opportunities for third parties looking to distribute apps to users of Google’s mobile operating system. But first they must meet a few key challenges.

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Amazon last week took a big step toward opening its own Android app store by launching a developer portal and inviting app creators to submit their wares. The online retailing behemoth hopes to create a kind of upscale alternative to Android Market, vetting apps to make sure they perform as advertised before they can be downloaded by consumers.

Such efforts are just one example of how Android Market’s shortcomings have created a variety of opportunities for those willing to get into the app-distribution business. And there’s plenty of room — from online retailers to social networks to pure-play startups — who want to tap the ever-expanding Android audience.

To lure users away from Google’s Android Market and toward a third-party storefront, though, app distributors must meet a few key challenges:

  • Attract developers. Retailers must make it easy and cheap (or free) for app developers to sign on and get to market. Make the development and submission process painless, and help developers who have problems tweaking their apps for your store. Offer premium placement and other marketing tactics for great apps, and be flexible and creative when it comes to sharing download revenues.
  • Vet and test your apps. Android Market’s biggest weakness for consumers is its lack of oversight, so competitors need to make sure their storefronts carry only top-notch stuff. Not only should apps make good on their claims, they must be tested for malware and to ensure they’re not pulling any shenanigans when it comes to sharing user information. If you can’t differentiate yourself from Google’s storefront through quality, you’ll lose. But it’s also important to have clear-cut policies regarding your approval policies (unlike Apple’s opaque rules for approval to its App Store) and to tell rejected developers exactly why their offerings weren’t accepted.
  • Fill a niche. Amazon has the muscle to establish a massive app storefront and compete with Android Market head-on. But other smaller retailers should find a specific demographic market or app genre to lure consumers. The startup BloomWorlds, for instance, is targeting parents by distributing family-friendly Android apps, which is a sound strategy considering some of the racy stuff kids could come across in Google’s store.

Of course, these steps alone don’t guarantee success, and numerous other challenges face online retailers looking to compete with the Android Market. For more, read my column at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image source: Flickr user superwebdeveloper

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  1. Going to be interesting to watch and see how Amazon does – They do have a lot of advantages over Google when it comes to commerce. If I was a developer, I just might trust Amazon to make it easy more than Google.

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  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Get Jar already do this for Android, with substantially greater download numbers?

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    1. You’re right that GetJar already does this, Mark, as do others. (I mention that in the longer piece over on Pro.) But GetJar also distributes apps on BlackBerry OS, Symbian, feature phones, etc. So if it has “substantially greater download numbers” — which I’m not sure is the case — it’s overall downloads, not just Android.

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  3. I’m not sure if there would be any real competition. I think most developers would submit their apps in both app stores. Even on the users front, I expect them to shop around in both app stores. It isn’t so much “lure away” from Andriod market but lure them in Amazon’s app store.

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    1. Fair point, Eric. I didn’t mean that developers might support third-party Android stores instead of Android Market, but in addition to it. Same for consumers, at least for the foreseeable future. Thanks.

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  4. i order for a alternative app store to have an impact on overall app quality for users would be it was the only app store users went too. i do not see that happening.

    sheer size and selection will therefore win in the end.

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    1. Zack Lee Wright Sunday, January 9, 2011

      If sheer size and selection wins then Apple App Store has already won and Android Market needs to shutdown and its user get a better phone.

      BTW, if Quality wins then Apple App Store has already won and Android Market needs to shutdown and its users get a better phone.

      Do I need to repeat myself for those with denser cerebral cortex ?

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  5. The Android’s community is developing rapidly, when it comes to creating tangible applications for phones it is very competitive, when two competitors bump heads we will see some very interesting stuff.

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    1. Reality Check Please Sunday, January 9, 2011

      What about all those smartphone users on Big Red that are about to make a serious upgrade to the iPhone in 2011. Could be more than 10 million Android defectors that have always wanted the best phone but didn’t like the AT&T network. Now they finally have a chance to upgrade. And don’t forget when Cupertino unleashes the iPad 2 and iPhone 5 they are going to open a very large bag-o-hurt on the Android copy cats.

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  6. $99/year for Amazon vs. free for Google ($25 one time start-up fee). I don’t think so. Yeah yeah, they waive the first year, but still, I’m pretty weary.

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  7. could have been, many application providers in the market starting from Amazon and others. new face of the application may be developed with the maximum possible with modern aspects

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  8. 1. Apple does not allow alternate app stores on the iPhone – so there’s no way for another company to compete in the iPhone app market.
    2. Apple has 0% market share in the Android app market – so there’s no way for another company to compete with Apple in the Android app market.

    The point of this article is, can Amazon compel users to switch from Google’s Market.

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  9. Considering these guys are an apple site I really dont think, they are qualified to even spell Android much less comment on the state of the market.

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    1. While we do have an site on our network devoted to Apple, I’ve written 100′s of posts on Android since dropping the iPhone last year for a Google Nexus One. There are many articles and videos on custom ROMs, recommended Android apps, my new Samsung Galaxy Tab (which I haven’t put down in favor my iPad since purchasing it) the state of Android sales in terms of market share and more. I’m all for constructive criticism, Rob, but it should have some basis in fact to have credibility.

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  10. [...] to users of Google's mobile operating system. But first they must meet a few key challenges.Source:http://gigaom.com/mobile/how-app-stores-can-compete-with-android-market/ [...]

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