Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Amazon Appstore opens: light on content, great on design

The Amazon Appstore for Android has opened today with a design that will be familiar and comfortable with Amazon customers, and a definite improvement on Google's Android Market.

Although the store contains far less apps than, say, the iTunes App Store, the total number of apps available is not a bad start. The featured app is, of course, Angry Birds.

The most noticeable feature missing is a breakout of mobile and tablet apps, reinforcing the impression that very few apps have so far been optimized for tablets running some form of Android.
The app store is broken out by 28 categories, an additional eight categories more that Apple's store, and one more than the Android Market. The categories in the Amazon Appstore do not match up with those in the Android Market: for instance, the Amazon store has a category for browsers while the Android Market has one for Business. The Android Market combines "News & Magazines", while the Amazon store has a separate category for Magazines.

There are currently 89 apps in the News & Weather category, and only four inside the Magazine category. By way of comparison, Apple's App Store contains 443 paid apps and 1,783 free apps available for the iPad, and 2,660 paid apps and 5,731 free news apps for the iPhone.

Despite the app numbers, the Amazon store benefits from its familiar design. One wonders, though, at what point one of the Android stores will begin dedicated support for tablet applications.

The lawyers at Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google and elsewhere certainly are busy.

Google recently was fined by French privacy watchdog CNIL 100,000 euros for Street View practices, while Microsoft said it was suing Barnes & Noble based on the idea that the Android OS infringes its patents.

Meanwhile Apple is suing Amazon over its use of the word "Appstore", or as Apple's trademark has it "App Store". “Amazon has begun improperly using Apple’s App Store mark in connection with Amazon’s mobile-software developer program,” Bloomberg reports the complaint as stating.

If possible, encourage your kids to go to law school and not J school.

One prominent feature of the new Amazon Appstore is its little developer bug (below) which links to the developer site. The annual price to become a developer is the same as Apple, $99, but Amazon is waiving the first year's fee.
Amazon has also started up a developer blog at the beginning of the year to support the developer community. The blog has its own dedicated website, but posts at this point are pretty light.

The process to create a developer account is very easy and designed to get apps up onto the store very quickly. I completed the forms in about five minutes and received a confirmation email almost immediately.

I did not encounter any difficulties so at this point it would be hard to judge the amount of developer support. Previously, while creating a developer account with Apple I encountered problems of my own doing, but customer support was excellent and all the problems were resolve through direct contact with a live support person. As for Google support, I can count four separate problems that I am currently having with the company, none of which have been resolved, and two of which have existed for over a year.