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Amazon app store won't require a device

by Phil Hornshaw

Amazon’s upcoming Android app store is taking a page from its Kindle business, and won’t require users to actually own an Android device in order to buy apps for one.

Engadget has the report, which states that the release of Amazon’s imminent app store will include the feature, leaving users’ purchases in the cloud to be downloaded later. The idea, much like with Google’s Android Market, is that users won’t be limited to a single device for their purchases.

Amazon customers will also have the ability to buy apps in anticipation of getting an Android device, frontloading their app complement so that when they bring their device home, they can quickly sync-up everything they want all at once. It’s part of Amazon’s big marketing push that will include ads for participating developers’ all over Amazon.com, according to All Things D.

There’s already a lot of cross-promotion that goes on at Amazon. When viewing an item, for example, the site includes a section mentioning what other customers ultimately bought after viewing the item at which the user is currently looking. With the proliferation of apps into Amazon, it’s more than likely that apps are going to start popping up in these spots, especially when customers look at Android-related products, like tablets.

Developers will also be able to push their apps all over the site, in bestseller lists and in search results, Amazon has said. It’s not much of a leap to assume Amazon will also be working apps into recommended purchases, and that apps relating to different products will show up as recommendations when viewing physical items. By way of example, imagine checking out a Food Network cookbook on Amazon, and having the site recommend the Food Network’s In the Kitchen: Recipes, Chefs Android app on the same page with a link to download it immediately.

That kind of cross-promotion -- capturing customers in multiple markets by offering them other things they might be interested in -- is going to be powerful force if Amazon wields it correctly. With the ability to zero-in on customers’ buying habits and to suggest apps to complement the items customers are already buying, Amazon could have a big edge when driving customers to its new store.

Google, on the other hand, could be at a serious disadvantage. Amazon has a huge customer base that, with some skillful implementation, it could turn into app store customers almost immediately, even if they don’t have a compatible device yet.

But Google has an edge of its own. Amazon’s store isn’t out yet (it’s still coming “soon”), but we do know that developers will be giving up some freedom to produce for it, with Amazon even mandating what the prices of apps will be. That isn’t exactly an inviting environment, and gives Google a chance to offset the big draw that all those potential customers will bring to app developers.

It might not be something Google can address until after Amazon’s store is live, but while the Amazon offering might take a chunk out of the Android Market’s revenues, Google will be in the position to respond to what developers aren’t liking about the Amazon model. The constraints are bound to have an affect on morale and create an environment at least some developers won’t be fond of -- if Google is there waiting to address their concerns, it could help make the Android Market an even more desirable place to sell apps.

That might not be enough to battle with the retail powerhouse Amazon represents, but it’s a step that will help the Android Market remain the place that developers and users go to first when they want the freedom to get exactly what they want, without a third party dictating (as many of) the rules.