Amazon’s Appstore for Android is not exclusively available for the Kindle Fire, but at this point that is the device that matters. The relatively new media tablet already holds the majority share of the Android tablet market and has proven more or less untouchable by comparably priced hardware competition so far. The secret, if it can really be said to be one, is in the content. Amazon has just about anything one might want to consume through the Fire ready to go at a moment’s notice with the push of a button. Nobody else can come close for the price.
When some major shortcoming is addressed in the design of their ecosystem, it is therefore worth taking note of. Like the recent announcement that developers now having access to the option of in-app purchasing, completely changing the potential for ongoing revenue from Kindle Fire owners. This is a long-time staple of iOS app market that is well overdue here.
Until this point, Amazon affiliated app creators have earned a reported $0.89 for every $1.00 they earn selling the same offering through the iTunes App Store. That is despite the lack of ongoing microtransactions supported by Amazon. For comparison, the same app being sold through Google Play will earn an average of $0.23 for every dollar its creator catches via iTunes.
Opening up more possibilities for developers to make money through Android will put Amazon in a better position to build the best app selection available. Currently, in sheer numbers, they are lagging behind both Apple and Google significantly. By allowing options that don’t involve advertisements or unpopular third party tools, Amazon is making the Kindle Fire an even more attractive option.
This does open up some potential drama for Kindle Fire owners, of course. The biggest draw of Amazon’s 1-Click purchasing system is that it is so easy you almost don’t notice you’re spending money. Combine this with apps that are designed to offer quick and easy purchases and you may well have a recipe for personal financial disaster.
Many will recall an incident in the earlier days of the iPad when an eight year old girl made news buying Smurfberries to speed up her in-app play. The bad publicity from this and similar events is what brought about the iPad’s detailed array of Parental Controls.
Amazon hopes to avoid similar efforts by having fewer loopholes in their existing restrictions. Kindle Fire users have the ability to block in-app purchasing entirely, password protect the process using their Amazon account password, or create a PIN to unlock purchasing. Between these choices, there should be little room for complaint about accidental shopping unless users simply don’t know how to access the controls.
For reference, you can manipulate Kindle Fire In-App Purchasing settings by going to the Apps tab from the Home screen, clicking on the Store, and opening the Settings menu. Since all purchasing appears to be routed through this store app, it makes sense to find these settings here.
When people talk about the Kindle Fire’s shortcomings, one of the most common objections is the fact that Amazon has closed their customers into an ecosystem that has no direct connection to the general Android Marketplace. While this is true and does mean that there are far fewer apps at the disposal of customers, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely a negative thing.
The most obvious positive, as far as I can tell, is Amazon’s inspection practices. While they aren’t nearly as restrictive as Apple, neither does Amazon just allow anything that happens to be submitted to make its way into the system. This becomes especially important at times like this when large numbers of inexperienced users are likely to be presented with a kind of device they are completely unfamiliar with. Buying from the Amazon Appstore you have little to worry about, whereas the Android Marketplace has had instances of Malware uploads increase by nearly 475% since just this part July by some accounts. Because of how Google has structured their store model, there’s no easy way for them to preemptively remove these apps.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, there is also the added benefit to users of regularly discounted or free apps. While it is my understanding that there have been issues with this system before, such as developers having been misinformed about the potential for profit when their apps are included in the featured slot, it is nothing but a benefit to the end user. Chances are good that eventually something you want to use will be featured, or at least something that you didn’t realize would be interesting until it popped up.
Kindle Fire owners also have the added benefit of knowing that their device of choice is likely to enjoy ongoing support. Unlike the main Android Marketplace in which developers are often practically obligated to cater to whichever build hit shelves last, it is fair to expect that Amazon will be clinging to their highly customized build for quite a while. This means that not only will the newest apps to hit the store be available to you, but that more developers wishing to enjoy ongoing relevance for their work will be drawn in. Nobody likes to see something they put significant effort into be rendered incompatible a month later.
It would be ridiculous to say that this was anything but a self-serving move on Amazon’s part. If they could have made more money by opening up their software to Google’s store, there is no doubt that it would have been the first thing done. Less infrastructure to develop, if nothing else. The fact is though that by keeping things in house, so to speak, the only people harmed are over at Google.
If having a pure, untouched Android build is really what you would prefer, Amazon has left it quite simple to root the device and make it so. As it stands, though, the Kindle Fire will be a great entry level product for exactly the reasons that many existing tablet enthusiasts will find unpleasant. Unless one is exceptionally wary about being tied into Amazon’s services, few shortcomings will be noticeable in their handling of the Appstore.
Clearly the Kindle Fire is creating some buzz in the tablet community, and among people who just generally like these sort of gadgets in general. With the announcement of the new Nook Tablet, though, some people had started looking more closely into potential shortcomings for the Amazon offering and quite possibly the biggest one was the external services tie ins.
While the Nook Tablet is completely giving up on offering its own unique video service in favor of letting customers find their own way among companies like Hulu, Netflix, Rhapsody, etc., Amazon kept touting their own library selection and the advantages inherent in the integration with this library. Surely, the thinking goes, Amazon would be pointing out that they were allowing seemingly competing companies a place on their new device if such were the case. I’ve often seen this cited as a reason for the Nook Tablet’s superiority since that device was announced, in fact.
Naturally this relies on incomplete information. As I have mentioned previously, companies like Netflix and Pandora were among the few to have preview copies of the new Kindle Fire before it was officially announced and blocking access to the services these companies offer was never indicated in any way. To head off these rumors, Amazon issued a press release this week emphasizing the large selection of media based apps that we can expect to see ready for their new tablet.
In the week to come, Hulu Plus and ESPN ScoreCenter apps can be expected to appear in the marketplace. A Netflix app is confirmed as well. There will be games from popular developers like PopCap, Zynga, and EA. A number of music streaming apps from companies like Pandora will be around as well. Across the board every effort has been made to draw in app developers who might bring customers what they want on the new device regardless of how that might cause increased competition for Amazon’s own products in the long term. Pretty much the only apps you are unlikely to see on the Kindle Fire are those from more direct competitors like Apple and Barnes & Noble.
It also demonstrates Amazon’s fairly impressive confidence in their own offerings, when taken with everything together. As a digital retailer, Amazon serves up games, movies, music, and eBooks to Kindle Fire users. The fact that they still anticipate making money off of the device, which they are selling at or near the cost of manufacture, indicates faith that customers will find value in what is being offered. I would say that this has to be based on more than simply the convenience of one-click buying integration throughout the interface.
Amazon will continue to inspect all of their App Store submissions before releasing them for the Kindle Fire, but clearly this will not be to weed out the competition. Users will enjoy the full benefits that a tablet like this has to offer, which should reassure some people who have been hesitant to join up with a platform that may have seemed at first glance to be considering emulating the Apple model. No more reason to hesitate over this matter.
The success of any Tablet PC is pretty much going to depend on the usefulness of the associated application offerings. It would be hard to argue that this is anything but a major factor in the success of Apple’s iPad. Naturally, with the Kindle Tablet in mind for the future, Amazon was depending on its App Store to make it big and have all sorts of fun stuff ready when the hardware launches. The money to be made is not really in the hardware anymore for either of these companies, so it is no wonder that Apple is trying to corner the market on anything they can manage with regard to Apps.
So far, not much luck along those lines in the US. While Apple is trying legal channels to prevent Amazon from calling its app store an app store, the judge asked to provide a preliminary injunction against Amazon’s use didn’t see them having much chance of success and turned down the request. It seems like a lot of the argument Apple is making is based on their assumption that Amazon will be happy to host viruses, malware, and porn, which would keep potential customers from trusting anything labeled with the same name. Hard to see that going very far, in the long run, but time will tell. The trial is set to start in October of 2012.
Just because their case does not seem to be going well so far in the US, however, doesn’t mean that it is dead in the water. Germany’s response to the same lawsuit has resulted in Amazon being forced to close the door to new submissions for the time being. Amazon is, of course, going to be spending a great deal of effort trying to defend their interests wherever they can, but for the time being there is no word and little room to speculate on when that situation might change.
On the one hand, it really doesn’t matter how it comes out one way or another. If the name has to be changed to Amazon’s Android Emporium or something else ridiculous, it will only increase the potential for name recognition if they play it right and the functionality won’t be changing a bit. Even in the unlikely event that Apple can pull this off, everybody else is going to do just fine. On the other hand, anything that lets Amazon directly equate their new Kindles and Kindle Tablets to the iPad in peoples’ minds will work to their advantage as they push for maximum dispersal of the hardware. Yes, the important part will be the device integration which won’t rely much on names anyway, but why not make it as clear as possible?
What will happen in the meantime as we lead up to the rulings in various locations, pretty much the only thing that we can be sure of is that nobody with a Tablet is going to want to go without apps. It just wouldn’t really work. Hopefully that will be an option for everybody who wants to when the Kindle joins that marketplace.
In recent news, Apple has decided to start thoroughly enforcing their in-app purchasing rules after a bit of a delay. While this is inconvenient for Kindle users, Nook users, and pretty much everybody who isn’t Apple, perhaps the most uniquely affected portion of the eBook marketplace will be the fans of Nook Kids for iPad app. Its narrow audience and specific requirements definitely make it a special case.
If you think about the strengths of the iPad, or tablets in general so far, when it comes to eReading, the biggest factor in favor is the color screen. Not much good for the purpose if you read a lot of bestsellers, classic literature, poetry, or anything along those lines, but absolutely essential for optimal viewing of kids’ books among other things. Right now, the Nook is pretty much the only eBook line handling children’s books in a thorough fashion. One of the things you’ll see on all their advertisements is that they have the “largest collection of kids’ books all in one place”, and that even seems to hold up pretty well.
Now, if you make the assumption that few parents are grabbing their children tablets of their very own, which I think is a fair assumption given the average prices and general fragility of the gadget compared to the toys they might be used to, the change becomes particularly inconvenient. Basically, if my hypothetical child were to have their own Tablet PC or Kindle, it would be in my best interest to not allow them any way to make purchases on the device itself. Whether this is accomplished via parental controls or simple lack of functionality doesn’t matter much. On the same device that I keep around primarily for my own use, that I simply happen to pull out during shared reading time, the lack of functionality is an infuriating factor. Yes, browser-based purchasing is still simple enough to use, but it adds enough steps to the process of acquiring a book that will likely only take a small amount of time per reading anyway that it renders impulse buying less attractive.
This was Apple’s plan, of course. Force people to either give Apple a 30% cut of every sale or lose a large portion of their revenue entirely. When nobody else is offering the same service, it won’t necessarily kill the business, but I would expect interest among iPad owners to fall off to a certain degree. A big setback in the short term that may allow competition to rise up if Barnes & Noble can’t get a better handle on the situation. Personally, I would anticipate seeing Nook Kids for Android apps any time now. The tablet market is growing noticeably, and it is only a matter of time before something pops up that can compete with the iPad. Right now that looks like an Android Tablet. Maybe it will be the Kindle Tablet, maybe not, but as far as the OS choice goes, there isn’t a whole lot else going on right now for portable devices.
While you can definitely grab whatever eBooks you might be interested in reading directly through your Kindle‘s connection to Amazon.com, there is no denying that you can get all the information you need about a potential buy more easily by pulling it up on your computer’s web browser. Part of that is the E Ink screen, with its associated monochrome display and slow refresh rate. Apparently this is a big problem across the board with mobile devices, however. Research has been done that indicates that the majority of shopping is done from desktop computers or laptops rather than more portable devices. Those tend to be a less successful avenue for sales efforts so far.
This is part of why the Kindle Tablet seems to be such an integral part to the future of Amazon and other online retailers. While the trend is likely to take a long while, there are indications that we are moving into something of a post-PC marketplace. At least as far as daily home use is concerned. If you’re on a computer, you tend to be at the computer with a significant portion of your attention directed at it. With a tablet or a smartphone, you can simply be on the internet while doing something completely unrelated. Plenty of people already have trouble going anywhere without being connected.
It is hard to pin down precisely why the online shopping experience hasn’t quite kept up for people, but Jeff Bezos had some comments on the subject a short time ago. He said, among other things, that at present browsing on a smartphone tends to be “a marginal experience in many cases”. This is a temporary thing, of course. As smartphones and tablets advance, they get more powerful, more versatile, and generally more enjoyable in every way. At the same time, web developers are learning more ways to accommodate these browsers and the many non-PC features that they bring to the browsing experience.
The acknowledgement of the situation is important in understanding the potential for the Kindle Tablet. Yes, it is likely to be placed as something extending the Kindle eReader line. More important, however, is its extension of the Amazon.com website. Call it a bridge between the Kindle and Amazon.com, maybe. There is going to be a huge advantage for Amazon in that they will not only be controlling their own app ecosystem in the form of the Amazon Android App Store, but also offering their entire website in a form that is perfectly compatible with the tablet people are browsing on. After all, the company itself is involved as every stage at this point so they can make sure it all works smoothly. They know what the device, or devices, can do. They know what changes need to be made to make everything show up smoothly. There is even the possibility of a customized front end specifically for tablet user browsers. Even leaving aside considerations of a Kindle Phone or any Kindle Tablet option with 3G access and the advantage that Amazon would gain by connecting their users to the site 24/7, this looks good.
Recent news regarding the Nook Color‘s new features should go a long way toward illustrating the direction that the mini-tablet is likely to take in the near future. While many have never viewed it as serious eReader competition for the Kindle, this seemed to be the hope that Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) had for the device. It seems they’re coming to their senses a bit and realizing the real potential of their affordably priced tablet.
To sum the situation up a bit, a recent offering on the Home Shopping Network let slip certain information about upcoming features for the Nook. Most notably, it will be the first tablet on the market to include Flash support. In addition to this, there will finally be support for email, as well as an app store to expand the capabilities of the device. It seems that a viewer managed to capture the segment and post it on YouTube, which then prompted Barnes & Noble to issue a press release confirming the email, though not yet the Flash.
This definitely seems like a divergence from the previously staunch position that the Nook Color must be seen as a reading device first and foremost. It makes a lot of sense. Users seem largely to value the newest Nook incarnation for either its tablet capabilities or its color screen rather than any percieved inherently superior reading performance. Really, while I’m not a fan of it as an eReader, this should make Barnes & Noble into a major player in the tablet competition.
The press release also emphasizes the importance of the Nook platform’s magazine and children’s book offerings. Since these are the areas where the color screen really shines, given the shortcomings of a monochrome display for such applications, it definitely makes sense to see the focus turn this way. I think there’s a lot of future in the marketing of children’s books in particular, things along the lines of NOOK Kids, for the less expensive and versatile tablets on the market today even if they fall short in other areas. Great for actually getting in the hands of kids.
The effect of these upcoming changes on the Kindle in the end seems destined to be fairly negligible. There’s a good chance that this will end the direct Kindle vs Nook Color comparisons for many, since it indicates an emphasis on non-book aspects of reading as well as non-reading applications. That’s something. Really, though, it feels like this is more an indication of how successful the Kindle has been than anything else. The rush to a color eReader hasn’t succeeded because it meant a number of compromises that Amazon didn’t make, so they’re moving into a slightly different field. It could also be that this is meant as a means to get a jump on Amazon in light of the rumors that have been going around about a potential Kindle-related line of tablet PCs.
The software update is supposed to drop in April, by all accounts, so be on the lookout for it. I believe that this will breathe new life into the Nook Color for existing users as well as bring in a large new audience.