Amazon.com opened its version of an app store for smartphones today, focusing exclusively on apps for Android-based devices.
The Appstore (as it is called) launches with 3,800 apps available, and is offering a free download of an exclusive level of the highly popular Angry Birds game to draw attention. It's available both online at www.amazon.com/appstore, and can also be downloaded to users' Android phones -- essentially replacing the default Android app shopping experience.
There's a few interesting twists here. First, Amazon is not going for the full breadth of available Android apps (now around 200,000). It wants only to sell the best and most interesting apps. It's a strategy that allows the best apps rise above the chatter of the mediocre focusing on hits rather than long tail. That benefits both consumers (who want to skip right to the best apps) and developers (who have grumbled about finding difficulty in selling their apps via Android).
On that second point, Amazon has a distinct edge over the Android Marketplace in the number of accounts with credit card information Amazon already has on file. Amazon has millions of existing accounts with credit card numbers attached. The Android Marketplace requires use of Google Checkout, which has far fewer users.
Other benefits Amazon is offering over the Android Marketplace include offering a free app a day, a "Test Drive" feature that lets users try an app before buying via their phone browser for an half hour, and a recommendations feature that offers app suggestions based on purchasing history.
Apple, meanwhile, has responded to the whole situation by suing Amazon over its user of the moniker "Appstore," claiming that it can be confused with its own "App Store" trademark.