Strong Reactions to Amazon’s New App Store

Amazon Android Store Angry Birds Rio app

Today Amazon opened a new app store for Android smartphones and tablet devices! And it’s also raising questions about whether Amazon is preparing to release their own iPad-sized Kindle that runs the Android operating system.

Amazon “did not respond to requests for comment” when contacted by the Wall Street Journal. But today the newspaper reported that industry observers “widely expect” Amazon to release a multimedia Kindle “that may run on Android.” And whatever they do next, Amazon has just entered into a high-stakes war with the largest players in the entire technology industry — including Apple, Google, and Microsoft. With or without an Android-based Kindle, at least one stock analyst already predicts that Amazon could be “a leader” here, based on how powerful they’ve already become in online shopping.

Amazon “has a key advantage over Google,” the Wall Street Journal reports — “untold millions of paying customers who have already provided critical credit-card information.” And Amazon attacked Google directly in their press release today when they announced the U.S. launch of their app store, the Journal observed. “In a thinly-veiled swipe at Google, Amazon noted that it will test all Android apps before they’re made available to consumers in its app store.” There’s over 150,000 apps in Google’s own store, the Journal notes, which makes it more difficult to test the apps individually, “a policy that came back to bite Google earlier this month when it was forced to remove dozens of malicious apps from its market.”

Obviously all these fun and useful “app”-style programs won’t run on the current-generation Kindles, but Amazon’s new store can sell its apps for all the current smartphones and tablets that run the Android operating system. And “the Amazon Appstore for Android” is already drawing some very positive reviews. Compared to Google’s “Android Market,” Amazon’s store “is much more pleasurable to navigate,” PC World reported, “immediately presenting you with a long list of popular free and paid apps.” They also point out that Amazon’s store has nearly 4,000 apps available on its very first day, and “What Amazon loses in quantity, it gains in quality…this is obvious when you run a search for popular apps like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. Clones, spam apps and irrelevant results abound in the Android Market, but Amazon’s store returns exactly what you’re looking for–and nothing more.”

“Our customers have told us that the sheer number of apps available can make it hard to find apps that are high quality and relevant to them,” Amazon announced today in their press release. And they’ve also added a special new feature called “Test Drive,” which actually lets you preview an app on your PC before downloading it to your phone.

The launch of the Android-phone app store has already provoked Apple into action. Friday Apple even filed a lawsuit against Amazon, trying to force them to stop using the term “app store.” It seems to me Apple is worried that an iPad-sized Kindle — complete with its own app store — could create some unwanted competition. (“We’ve asked Amazon not to copy the App Store name because it will confuse and mislead customers,” an Apple spokeswoman told Bloomberg News.) Friday Apple actually filed an official complaint in a federal courthouse in California, citing both “trademark infringement” and unfair trade practices (and requesting both an injunction on the use of the phrase “app store” and a legal award of damages.) Apple claims the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had already approved an application for a trademark on the phrase “app store”.

But the approval of an application isn’t necessarily an approval of the trademark itself. Apple’s trademark application remains in an “opposition period” where other players in the industry — including Microsoft —
now file legal arguments for or against the granting of an official trademark. It looks like it’s going to be a brutal and intense legal struggle. On March 11, Microsoft even complained that Apple was cheating by using a smaller font to cram more words into their 31-page response. (“Under the rules, Apple’s brief cannot exceed 25 pages in its entirety…and must be printed in at least 11-point font…”)

All the legal and economic arguments are really just a distraction from the giddy fun of the launch of a new app store. You can access it at these shorter URLs

amazon.com/apps
amazon.com/appstore

And there seems to be a lot of excitement. This afternoon when I tried to install the Amazon Appstore on my smartphone, I received a “server busy” message for nearly half an hour! Amazon is giving away “Angry Birds Rio,” the newest version of a popular bird-shooting game for smartphones. (“Birds away!” reads Amazon’s description, promising “you’ll unleash an arsenal of angry bird artillery through 60 levels of cage-busting vengeance.”) They’re advertising it as an Amazon appstore exclusive, and it’s already the best-selling item in Amazon’s app store — but it’s not the only free game in the store. In fact, there’s hundreds of free apps in the store today, including free versions of all the following classic games.

Backgammon
Blackjack
Checkers
Chess
Connect 4
Solitaire
FreeCell
Go
Reversi
Sudoku
Word Search
Texas Hold ‘Em,
Tic Tac Toe

There’s even two more free Angry Birds games, plus Guitar Hero 5. (And there’s even a version of Pac-Man.) Of course, there’s non-game applications, like Oprah Mobile, E! Online, and Zagat to Go. But the most interesting feature is Amazon’s promise of very aggressive pricing if you’ll keep visiting their app store. The store’s current tagline?

“Get a great paid app for free every day.”

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