In a move that will put pressure on Google to improve its Android Market more rapidly, Amazon on Wednesday launched the Amazon Appstore Developer Portal, a Web site that allows Android app developers to join its developer program in order to sell apps through the company's forthcoming Amazon Appstore.
Amazon plans to charge developers $99 a year, a fee similar to Apple's developer program, though it is waving the fee for the first year. It is offering developers access to tens of millions of Amazon customers and claims that its marketing and merchandising features will help sell developers' apps.
App discoverabililty is perhaps the single biggest problem for mobile developers today. There are so many mobile apps for iOS and Android devices that it's difficult to get noticed and most of the developers releasing these apps can't afford the marketing expenses required to stand out.
Amazon highlights the problem of application overload in a blog post and says it has the answer.
Whether that turns out to be true remains to be seen. Many of the mobile app marketing services appear to be designed to shift all the risk onto the developer or app publisher. There's no guarantee that marketing investments will pay off. As a developer you can pay for a lot of clicks and never generate meaningful sales.
And more controllable forms of marketing, such as cost-per-install services, tend to cost more than the $0.99 to $1.99 price that appeals to the typical app buyer. The result is that developers often lose money paying for app installations and lack the marketing infrastructure and experience to recoup that cost later.
Amazon will take 30% of the revenue from the apps that it sells, which is similar to what Google and Apple charge. Google is reportedly considering a reduction in its fees to woo publishers to participate in a digital newsstand venture, and may see value in extending a reduced sales fee to all Android Market developers.
When word of Amazon's plans emerged last year -- the company apparently offered some developers an NDA preview -- Android developers expressed mixed reactions. Kumar Bibek said in a Google Groups post that he would probably stick with the Android Market because it's still the largest Android store.
Echoing sentiment expressed by several developers about Amazon's DRM requirements and its terms of service, John Coryat said "I got the e-mail and read the terms. I decided to stick with the Android market and forget this one."
But others said they'd give it a shot. The irony here is that if Amazon succeeds, we're likely to see the flood of app store openings increase, perhaps to the point that app store discoverability becomes an issue.