The juiciest Android story so far this week is Amazon's plans to open up an app store of its own.
Going from rumor status to all but confirmed in just a few days, it appears that the Android Market is about to have its biggest competitor to date. Currently there are efforts from the likes of Mobihand, SlideME, and AppBrain, but these will pale in comparison to the scope of an Amazon store.
Slashgear has obtained a copy of the terms and conditions that developers have been asked to review and sign. A quick glance through the agreement shows that developers must pay an annual $99 fee and allow for Amazon to retain rights to modify your code and/or add their own DRM protection.
Amazon also requires that the "Initial Availability Date" be identical to when a developer lists the application with a "similar service." In other words, you can't put it in the Android Market before you put it in the Amazon store. The "royalty" payed out to developers is similar to other outlets with the amount equating to the greater of either 70 percent of the purchase price or 20 percent of the list price.
Personally, I am all for a player like Amazon getting into the Android app space. A high profile company with years of excellent service does nothing but shine a brighter light on the platform. If anything, Amazon will force Google to keep pushing forward with changes the Android Market.
I can't think of another Internet retailer that offers a discovery and recommendation tool as good as Amazon's. Implementing such a service would go a long way toward putting new apps in front of potential buyers. Consider also that Android customers typically skew a little on the cheap side, often opting for free apps. Perhaps this could be what gets people in the mindframe where they actually start paying for apps.
Another great highlight that comes with an Amazon store is the potential for multiple payment options. Credit cards, gift cards, and even checking accounts are great alternatives to carrier billing and Google Checkout, and Amazon accepts payments in countries where Google Checkout doesn't.
Yet, even with all these potential benefits I'm concerned that an Amazon app store could result in more fragmentation. Platform naysayers will be quick to point out the confusion that might arise with having so many options. After all, multiple carriers and handset makers are already in various stages of building their own channels.
So could we see a future Motorola handset from Verizon loaded with Multiple storefronts? Possibly, but I doubt it. What worries me more is the scenario where a wireless provider decides to offer their own store with exclusive titles instead of the generally preferred Android Market.
In the end, all I ask is that carriers don't put roadblocks in front of me. Load whatever app store you want, just don't make it so that I cannot download another option.