First impressions: Android Appstore

Tuesday, March 22 2011

I took a moment to give Amazon’s new Appstore a quick run-through today, and thought I’d mind dump a few assorted thoughts.

Competition is a good thing

One of the worse thing about monopolies is the lack of motivation to change, adapt, and listen to the needs of customers. Why bother bending to the wills of your users when you’re the only option? What if I (Joe Consumer) don’t agree with the selection process a store uses to determine which apps make the cut? When there’s only one option, I’m out of luck, and at the provider’s mercy.

Even if Amazon Appstore ends up being an also-ran (which I suspect it will), it’s putting some amount on Google to continue improvement of their Market. I sincerely hope that Amazon improves to the point where the competition pushes both parties to innovate.

The concern of fragmentation is somewhat unfounded

Fragmentation” is a term used in a lot of FUD campaigns. It is important to keep in mind the fact that Google’s Market will be the default (much like IE is for Windows), and will likely always be. Most of us will probably look there first. But just like I can navigate away from eBay to Amazon while looking for something, I can now do the same with apps. Maybe one has something priced cheaper. Maybe the superior quality of one causes policy changes in the other. A win-win just for having to tap a piece of glass a few times (instead of clicking).

It’s also important to realize that we deal with fragmentation every day. Have you ever downloaded software from somewhere other than Microsoft Update, Mac’s App Store, or one of Linux’s many package managers? We get software from all kinds of different sources, and I’m glad for the fact.

Amazon may not ultimately succeed, but this is a victory for the consumer. Developers that are annoyed at having to submit to multiple places will probably have their concerns answered by a service that handles submissions to multiple sources. Or the process in general will be streamlined to the point where it’s not an issue.

As far as the store itself

There were some definite positives, and there were the expected early-life issues. First, the good:

  • I liked being able to select apps for download from the web and have them pulled by my device, like Google Market does (as long as the Amazon Appstore app is running).
  • Amazon’s recommendation engine is pretty nice. Google’s is not nearly as good. This is one of those places that I expect Google will have to improve to compete.
  • The web interface is decent.

Now the bad:

  • The Android app’s UI is pretty clunky. I suspect they’ll fine tune this over time, just like all other similar products have done. This is not a deal-breaker.
  • As expected, the selection is limited. Not a deal-breaker yet, we’ll give them some tme.

A delicate balance

The only thing out of all of this that sends up red flags is that Amazon is instituting an approval process similar to Apple’s. However, I cringe less at that is the fact that Amazon isn’t also the platform provider (as Google is to Android). Amazon doesn’t care if your Photo Gallery app competes with Android’s, as long as it adds a quality replacement.

I did see a statement that anything pornographic will be denied, which is fine, but we’ll see what constitutes pornographic material soon. There was also mention that the approval process might take a week, which might dissuade some developers.

Summary

Amazon’s Appstore is the first attempt that comes to mind for an alternate phone app store at this scale. They are very much pioneers of this for Android, and maybe the smartphones in general. The Appstore does not have enough clout to make it something I’ll spend a ton of time thumbing through just yet, but I will certainly peek at it from time to time.

Fragmentation is a non-issue, and I welcome the competition that Amazon brings against Google and others thinking of doing the same thing. The consumer wins when we have more than one option. Just like individual app stores will evolve and improve, I expect the whole alternate app store thing to become a lot more natural with time. Perhaps Google will even embrace this and offer some additional programmatical facilities for developers.