March 22, 2011, 2:58 PM

Under fire from Apple, Amazon launches its Android app store

Amazon’s new Appstore only has 3,800 little programs that run on Android phones.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Lead Photo

The Amazon Appstore launched today for users of Android smartphones and tablets.

If anyone has a shot at competing against Apple Inc.’s App Store, it might just be Amazon.com Inc. And Apple seems to know it.

Amazon today launched the Amazon Appstore for Android. The web retailing powerhouse is heavily promoting its Test Drive feature that lets consumers try out apps on a simulated Android smartphone on their computer and its giveaway of one free paid app per day.

Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, went forth with the store despite a lawsuit filed Friday by Apple that claims Amazon’s use together of  the words “app” and “store” is a trademark infringement. Apple reportedly asked for an injunction stopping Amazon from using the phrase in its store name as well as unspecified damages.

Apple is concerned because apps are a massive component of its business. Consumers have downloaded more than 10 billion apps from the Apple App Store to the more than 160 million iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices in use worldwide, Apple says. That’s an average of 62.5 apps per device. The App Store launched in 2008 and offers 350,000 apps.

Amazon believes it can capture some of that voracious consumer appetite for apps by bringing its well-honed arsenal of web tools to an app store.  The Amazon Appstore, which offers only 3,800 apps at launch, offers personalized recommendations, customer reviews and the ability to check out in one click. It also offers detailed product descriptions, app screenshots and video content showing apps in action.

“Test Drive lets customers truly experience an app before they commit to buying,” says Paul Ryder, vice president of electronics at Amazon.com. “It is a unique, new way to shop for apps. 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. We’ve spent years developing innovative features that help customers discover relevant products. By applying these features, plus new ones like Test Drive, we’re aiming to give customers a refreshing app shopping experience.”

Customers can shop the Amazon Appstore from any computer using a web browser or through any Android device, and use the apps on all Android devices they own.

Today’s free app is the Angry Birds Rio for Android, a new iteration of the Angry Bird game that has developed a cult following on both the Android and iPhone platforms. Amazon also is selling exclusive versions of games not available elsewhere, including ad-free versions of Angry Birds and Angry Birds Seasons.

Amazon created a stir earlier this year when it opened a developer portal that enables Android developers to join the merchant’s Appstore Developer Program and submit apps for the then-forthcoming Amazon Appstore for Android.  At the time, Amazon said the upcoming app store would help mobile app developers reach the tens of millions of active Amazon customers.

“The apps space has grown dramatically in the past year and the sheer number of apps available today makes it hard for customers to find products that are relevant to them,” the merchant says. “Amazon’s innovative marketing and merchandising features are designed to help customers find and discover relevant products from our vast selection, and we’re excited to apply those capabilities to the apps market segment. An Appstore is a logical next step for Amazon.”

Amazon says it will pay developers 70% of the sales price for each app sold. It says it can move an app through the approval process to be included in the store in about a week on average.

“We will test the apps before publishing them in our store,” Amazon says. “Our goal is to help ensure customers have a good experience with the apps they buy from us—and to protect customers from malware and other harmful situations. From a developer’s standpoint, we will not be prescriptive in terms of what constitutes good app design. We hope to feature lots of innovative and creative apps.”

Malware in apps is becoming more of a concern. Google Inc. announced earlier this month that it removed several potentially dangerous apps that were available for download in the Android Market, signaling that consumers should think about security when downloading apps as they do when downloading software or files to their computers.

According to Google, the nefarious apps exploited known vulnerabilities that are only present in older versions of the Android operating system. Google says it thinks the apps that were downloaded didn’t gather much information, only the IMEI/IMSI—unique codes used to identify mobile devices—and the version of Android running on the mobile device. But it added that given the nature of the attacks, the apps could access other data, so Google remotely removed the malware-infected apps from devices that had downloaded them. It also released a security update to all affected devices that reversed the access the apps may have gained to prevent them from stealing any more information.

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