Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) thrives on scale for its business model. But when it comes to launching new products, the company has often taken a cautious — and, some might argue, slow — approach in rolling them out worldwide. That was the case with the Kindle, which took nearly two years to make its way across the pond from the U.S. to the UK and other countries. And it has been the case with its new appstore, the Android-based applications storefront that Amazon launched in the U.S. in March — that is, it seemed, until now.
Yesterday, reports began to emerge that Amazon had quietly launched its appstore internationally. Android users outside the U.S. reported that they were finally able to download appstore apps, in Australia, the Netherlands, India, the UK, Canada, and more countries around the world.
No local Amazon sites have links to the appstore, but the reports indicated that they were able to go through the main site, Amazon.com, to get content through the downloaded Appstore app: up to now, that has had a geo-block for users outside the U.S.
We were curious to try this out, but here in the UK, it hasn’t worked for me, nor for my colleague Robert. We can get the appstore, but no apps. From the looks of it, either Amazon had a temporary loophole on the site (now closed), or was just testing the waters (testing over). Or perhaps there has simply been a significant amount of echo-chamber misreporting going on.
We have contacted Amazon to find out what is going on, and will update this post as we learn more.
Update: Amazon has responded with a typical PR non-response. “We have not announced any plans for international expansion,” a spokesperson wrote in an email. In any event, whatever downloads may have been happening before with the Amazon appstore outside the U.S. are no longer possible.
Getting the appstore usable outside of the U.S. would be an obvious move for Amazon, not just to get more traffic to the service and the developers that have gone through the hoops to post their apps on the store, but also to drive more users to Amazon’s mobile ecosystem. It has been widely reported that Amazon is planning on launching a tablet later this year using a “forked” version of Android, and the more content it can offer users of such devices, the better to keep them using and buying the products.
It’s not clear how much traffic the appstore has had up to now, but in terms of size alone, it is significantly smaller than the wider Android Market: currently there are 16,301 apps on the appstore, compared to the hundreds of thousands of Market apps. Combined with Apple’s App Store, that number is now thought to reach into the million mark.