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Amazon Appstore customers nearly triple in fourth quarter

In its latest financial results released this week, Amazon revealed that the number of customers for the Amazon Appstore nearly tripled in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.

The company also said that customers downloaded more apps from the Amazon Appstore during the fourth quarter than they had during all previous quarters combined. These numbers point to the opportunity that Amazon has to provide an Apple App Store-like experience for its devices.

“The greatest opportunity that Amazon has with the Appstore for Android is to continue to position itself as the iTunes for non-Apple devices,” said Jeff Orr, group director of consumer research at ABI Research, Oyster Bay, NY. “It could be a one-stop go-to location for apps that come from a trusted brand that can be deployed across a broad range of devices.

“Android has a music service. a books service, a magazine service, an app discovery storefront – all of these are separate in the Google delivery of them,” he said.

“Amazon has perhaps been more effective at bringing all that under one umbrella.”

Single user interface
The point of difference that the Amazon Appstore for Android provides is that has more of the content publishing agreements in place for movies, magazines and books, with all of these coming from one user interface.

Amazon’s strength here speaks to its strategy in the tablet market, which is not to make money from the sale of hardware such as the Kindle Fire but from the content that it can sell for mobile devices.

“Google is not in a position to solve all that integration so it has left it up to the device manufactures,” Mr. Orr said. “To provide the value that Amazon feels is necessary, it needs to provide its own storefront and content agreements.”

However, the numbers provided by Amazon about the Appstore do not make it clear if the Kindle Fire drove the increase. Such an understanding is key for app developers who may be considering creating Kindle Fire-friendly apps.

What would be interesting to understand is those who are using Kindle Fire to access the Amazon Appstore for Android versus those who have independently loaded the Amazon Appstore for smartphone or tablet use.

“The news from Amazon raises more questions than answer,” Mr. Orr said. “Is the Amazon Appstore for Android picking up in the market outside the Kindle Fire – this cannot be deduced today from the information that Amazon has released.

“There is no insight that suggests Kindle Fire is what is driving people to the Amazon Appstore,” he said. “I think there is influence there.”

If the Kindle Fire is what is driving users to use the Amazon Appstore, than the numbers have little or no impact on other app stores but they could mean developers need to consider developing Android apps that are compatible with the Kindle Fire.

“What developers need to consider is if Kindle Fire is significant enough in terms of its installed base that they want to make sure that their apps work well on Kindle Fire in addition to other devices,” Mr. Orr said.

New content agreements
Amazon said this week that net sales increased 35 percent to $17.43 billion in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2011. 

During the nine-week holiday period ending Dec. 31, 2011, Kindle unit sales, including both the Kindle Fire and e-reader devices, increased 177 percent over the same period last year.

Amazon said it continued to expand its content catalog and announced agreements with Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution and Disney-ABC Television.

The increase in downloads experienced by the Amazon Appstore reflects how strong mobile was during the recent holiday season, with many consumers receiving mobile devices as gifts and interested in discovering apps and content for their devices in the days following. The overall number of app downloads during this period was up significantly.

“Amazon is really not interested in trying to become the largest seller of tablet devices as much as to provide a complete end-to-end solution that ties the hardware and software together to be like Apple in that sense,” Mr. Orr said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York