Amazon Recruits Developers for Super-Slick Android Appstore

Amazon today released preliminary plans for its Android Appstore, which will likely do a better job of merchandising and selling apps than Google has.

Think of it as the equivalent of iTunes for Android.

Developers will be able to upload apps–including games and other digital content–to Amazon, which in turn will promote and distribute them on and also on mobile phones. (I can hear the promotions now: “If you liked that app…what about this one?”)

In a blog post aimed at developers, Amazon writes that it’s trying hard to get developers recognized among the hundreds of thousands of apps out there: “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.”

For the past few months, Amazon employees have been reaching out to developers to find out pain points and drum up support for this day.

So far, it looks like Amazon has listened to concerns. The developer portal looks insanely easy to use–anyone with a regular Amazon username and password can access it. Right now, the annual fee of $99 has been waived, and once you agree to a seven-page app-store distribution agreement, you can start uploading applications to the network, and eventually see metrics on how well they are performing.

Much of it sounds like iTunes.

Amazon will share 70 percent of revenues with developers, and the distribution agreement hints it will go worldwide. For now, it will be limited to the U.S. Amazon will handle all the bill processing, which is complex, especially on a global basis. Google learned this the hard way, and continues to support only paid apps in some countries. Amazon will also have some sort of approval process, but it’s unclear how rigorous that will be.

Launching an app store is not a stretch for Amazon. It’s been selling MP3s on phones for some time and has a large digital catalog, spanning books and videos. It also has a built-in payment system and access to tens of millions of Amazon customers, many of whom have their credit card information on file, as with iTunes or PayPal.

The one question is whether the business will provide enough scale for an e-commerce company of its size. After all, most applications today are free, or really cheap. And at least for now, Amazon is limited to the Android operating system.

True, Android is quickly gaining on Apple, especially in the U.S. According to Nielsen’s latest figures, the iPhone’s market share is 28.6 percent vs. RIM’s BlackBerry and Google’s Android platforms, which are essentially tied in second place with 26.1 percent and 25.8 percent, respectively.

There are two potential scenarios that will help pencil this out: The app store could help drive more sales of other content or products on the phone for Amazon. A more farfetched scenario is that Amazon does such a good job that other platforms or handset makers, like BlackBerry, Windows Phone, HTC or Samsung, will choose to outsource or adopt Amazon’s platform for a cut of the revenues.

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— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald