Amazon extends app store to China

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
14 May 2013

When Amazon opened its Kindle e-book store in China in December, it was expected to be the stalking horse to launch its Android platform too, stepping up its efforts to oust Google as the leading app store and user experience for the mobile OS.

The giant retailer has duly added Chinese support to AppStore for Android and is now likely to start selling its own hardware – the Kindle e-readers and tablets – in the huge market.

The app store now supports Chinese language and this should generate a sharp uptick in local content and software available to Android users in the country. Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting says that Chinese consumers are already buying Kindle devices from abroad and that there is “pent-up demand” for the products, which should only be stimulated by the opening of the two stores.

Currently, Apple is the leading tablet vendor in China, followed by Lenovo, and Amazon could appeal to the midmarket with its $159 slates and low cost e-readers. However, it is only a small player in the Chinese ecommerce sector, where local players like Alibaba – whose Taobao and 360buy sites sell e-books – dominated.

There are many localized app stores, too, though China is just about the only country where Google is not the Android vendor to beat. Baidu is the search leader and has its own cloud-focused mobile OS and app store, while Alibaba has an Android-based operating system too.

Google‘s run-ins with the Chinese authorities over issues like censorship and privacy, as well as the presence of powerful local players, have limited its activities - and although its Google Play store is available, it only sells free apps. That means Amazon will be the first western company to offer paid-for Android software in the country. It is focusing on Chinese apps such as the Sina Weibo social network rather than US majors like Twitter.

Since opening AppStore for Android in the US in March 2011, Amazon has extended the plat-form to over 200 countries. It will hope to appeal to Chinese users with its expertise in ecommerce – its storefront has many automated marketing features based on its recommendation engine.

It will also differentiate itself from local shopfronts, which often feature many pirated apps with potential malware, with its screening and merchandising processes. It will stress how these offer a safer experience for developers and consumers.

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