Amazon.com (AMZN) is hoping to put out an app store of its own for Android devices with the capability of letting users shop for mobile apps on both their phones and PCs — but it’s possible the app necessary to buy those apps might get bounced by Google (GOOG).
Here’s the backstory: Google’s Android Market has a policy for developers that they can’t make apps that distribute other apps. Flash game maker Kongregate had its Kongregate Arcade app pulled this week from the Market for exactly that issue.
Kongregate is reportedly trying to talk to Google about the situation, and the decision could set a precedent for the Android market and what Google allows to be pushed from there. If Google holds fast to its policy and keeps Kongregate out, Amazon will probably have the same trouble, as GigaOM pointed out.
It’s assumed that whatever catalog Amazon develops to let users search for and buy apps will, itself, be an Android app. Presumably, Amazon would need an app that works just like the iPhone’s App Store app, complete with searching, browsing and buying capabilities, in order to work on a phone — there doesn’t really seem like another way to do it. And that’s where Amazon will run up against Google’s development policy.
It should be noted, getting booted from the Android Market won’t kill Amazon’s app store or the app that goes with it. You can still download Kongregate Arcade from kongregate.com, and the app still works. Amazon surely could do the same thing with its own app — keeping a download link on its own site that would allow users to get hold of it.
If an app store is downloadable on the web, will anyone know?
But it’s a question of distribution. Reaching out to Android users and letting them know that the Amazon app store exists would be a whole lot easier with access to the Android Market than without it. In fact, it could seriously hinder the success of the Amazon app store if it doesn’t get Google’s OK to distribute out of the Android Market merely on the basis of spending time and money trying to get Android users to notice that Amazon’s store exists. Plus, it could potentially keep down the number of customers, which means less revenue from the store — which undoubtedly will mean less store support from Amazon and a worse situation for everyone, customers included.
It’ll be interesting to see what agreement Amazon and Google might have to come up with. Google’s interest is to keep people using its marketplace, thereby putting money in Google’s hands — hence the provision in the developer agreement. In order to grease the gears, Google might ask Amazon for a cut of its sales, and that’s something of a doubtful solution to the problem.
Android owners probably won’t be too happy if this shakes out the way that seems most likely, with Google blocking Amazon’s app store. An additional, strongly-backed app store could really help users with the discovery of great new apps — something the platform struggles to provide.