Why is Amazon Making an Android App Store?

Judging by the leaked terms and conditions, Amazon plans to swagger into the Android world with an alternative app download store, fists a-whirling. Are they building it to co-exist with Android's Market...or for an Android-powered SuperKindle?

Google isn't exactly a liberal, supportive father when manufacturers want to fool around with their open source software. They actually have some surprising restrictions—though really, they're not that surprising when you consider it's in their best interests to protect the quality of Android and thus, their future lineage.

Google's potential suitor, Amazon, has been very successful with its Kindle range—so successful, in fact, that you can pretty much call the race now. Would they really develop a full-blown tablet, as the same source who told TechCrunch about the app store claims? Or would they rather develop a Kindle device that uses parts of Android—such as the browser but not the Maps—that is still primarily geared for downloading ebooks?

Those rumors about color touchscreen Kindles came from somewhere after all, and we do know that their hardware division, Lab126, was looking to fill 80 jobs back in August, mostly for hardware specialists. Hardware specialists, for new ranges of products.

Imagine if Amazon wanted to launch a Kindle tablet running Android, but didn't want to shell out for camera components. Or didn't want to bother with an accelerometer. Or navigational buttons, or any other features that Google requires of its hardware partners who want access to the Marketplace on their Android devices.

Enter Amazon's app store. Bam! Suddenly developers can get their goods onto this mystery device, and users can play Angry Birds—or at least, the Amazon App Store version of it—in bed until 4am on the guise that they're reading Tolstoy.

It's been suggested that Amazon's app store will only be available to US Android users. Do you remember how long the Kindle took to launch outside of the US? Years. And even then they were still shipping them from the States to whichever countries wanted them. To develop an app store that will never see the drizzle of a cold London morning, or smell the scent of the Netherland's tulips wafting in from the window is absurd. Crazy-talk, when over 25 per cent of Android users live outside the US.

The alternative, of course, is that Amazon really is launching a rival app store to Market. Something for smartphones and tablets.

To say there are a few flaws with the idea is putting it mildly—especially when you consider the helluva hard time they'll have convincing developers to cough up the $99 to join their developers' program. Google only charges $25.

The obvious question I'd like to ask Amazon, if that's what they're really considering, is whether we even need another app store on Android. Sure, we've seen some carriers pre-load app stores on phones before, such as Verizon with their V-Cast. Even the porn store MiKandi does considerably well (racking up 80,000 downloads in its first month)—but another app store offering competing titles to Android's very own Market?

Well, I guess that's what Google meant by "open."

At the very least, we can expect an alternative app store to light the cracker under Google's ass that it so sorely needs. Google's Market is clunky, and while they may've given it a lick of paint or two in the three years since it launched, there's no disputing that it's a mess. I say this as a loving Android user, HTC Desire in-hand.

Given Amazon's proven track record in developing platforms, I'd hope to see a browseable website, something akin to Amazon's Kindle ebook database or even Apple's iTunes website, for searching for apps and recommending to friends.

Time will tell what Amazon has up its sleeve for both developers and Android users, but I have a feeling they've got greater designs on Google's daughter than just the size of her apps.