Russia’s Yandex has finally rolled out the alternative Android store that it was talking about last year, adding a major piece to its Google-rivaling suite of services for Android-based phones. The company now offers users search, maps, mail and apps, all without a Google logo in sight.
“We are joining the game to contribute to competition that ensures freedom of choice for the end user and other members of the market,” Alexander Zverev, head of the Yandex.Store project, said in a statement.
Yandex is fast becoming a serious contender: its search dominance in Russia has helped it overtake Microsoft’s Bing on a global level (at least, measured by searches, rather than users) and it’s also becoming increasingly popular in the Ukraine and Turkey, where its Yandex.Store will soon open.
The store’s mostly free 50,000-plus apps include familiar fare such as Skype and Foursquare, but also local treats such as the VK and Odnoklassniki social networks. Users can download it for themselves, but in its core markets, the Yandex.Store will be preinstalled on Android devices from manufacturers PocketBook, texet, Wexler, Oppo, Explay and 3Q. App sales revenues are shared between Yandex and those manufacturers, and the web firm also gets to make money off mobile search, much as Google does.
But that’s not the end of the story – Yandex.Store is also available as a white-label product for operators around the world, from the U.S. to Germany. And in those cases, Yandex will share revenues with the carriers. One Russian operator, MegaFon, is already using a rebranded Yandex app store called GetUpps.
In the case of both manufacturer and carrier partners, Yandex is also offering the opportunity to add payment methods of their choice – operators could for example make their own mobile payment service the mechanism for buying these Android apps.
To top it off, Yandex is also offering an updated version of its 3D Yandex.Shell UI, which device manufacturers can license.
This company keeps adding new ways to take the Google out of Android. And why not? It’s there for the taking, and Amazon has already done more-or-less what Yandex is doing on the Kindle Fire. If you take the view that Google is displacing the Android brand with its own, it’s a completely logical reaction on the part of any company that sees Google as a rival, not a partner.