Retailers help boost Android’s apps

While mobile phones running Google’s Android software have recently passed Apple’s iPhone in the US market, their advance has been hampered by problems in the distribution of applications that run on those phones.

Now an increasing number of online retailers and wireless carriers are stepping in with attempts to make it as easy for Android phone owners to find the “apps” they might want as it is for the iPhone users who benefit from Apple’s App store.

Most of the new entries are not setting out to help Google. Some are trying to hold off Apple for a variety of reasons, while others see apps more broadly as being the powerful engine for economic commerce.

They are largely aligning with Android because it has enough developers to make it worthwhile and because Google itself takes a laissez-faire approach to the cluttered Android Market. But the ironic beneficiary will be Google, which wants as many people as possible using mobile phones optimised for surfing the internet and using Google services. A big boost could come from Amazon, which asked developers to submit Android apps for an as yet unannounced store.

“The app store will help customers find, discover, buy, download, and install Android mobile applications” the company wrote to programmers in a pitch published on the Engadget blog.

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment, but analysts said it was motivated primarily by its increasing competition with Apple.

Now that Amazon wants to sell apps, it can echo Apple’s advantages in easy search, quality vetting and a trusted payment system.

“Presumably they will do a better job [than Google] of merchandising and simplifying the discovery experience,” said Charles Golvin, Forrester analyst.

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