Amazon opens Android developer portal

Giant book seller Amazon has opened the doors of its Android Developer Portal and is currently accepting submissions which will eventually appear on the Amazon Appstore.

Amazon's offering has many parallels with Apple's successful iTunes App Store for iOS devices but there are a number of major differences which may or may not hinder Amazon's success in its first foray into Android app distribution.

Unlike Apple, Amazon is offering little in the way of development tools, instead expecting potential coders to find or create their own APIs and interface elements. Developers are expected to come to the party fully equipped with finished products and Amazon is encouraging coders who already have products in place on Google's own Android Marketplace to use both outlets to increase sales.

Perhaps the biggest departure from Apple's tried-and-tested model comes in the form of Amazon's pricing structure.

Although developers are free to set their own 'list price', Amazon is reserving the right to negotiate that price down if it feels it can turn a better buck by flogging your work on the cheap.

In simplified terms, Amazon will either pay you 70 per cent of the sale price or 20 per cent of the list price, whichever is the greater. Amazon's FAQ says that if it does decide to footle with your financials you will have ten days to either agree to the revised price or withdraw your app. Apple hands over 70 per cent of the cash regardless of how insane your pricing is.

At launch, the developer portal will only accept submissions for Android apps which work with version 1.6 or higher of the open source operating system, and then only from US residents or Green Card holders.

We suspect the US-only caveat will be a temporary barrier to international developers caused by the complications of cross-border tax laws, an impenetrable explanation of which makes up a large proportion of the portal's terms and conditions.

Users will eventually be asked to cough up $99 a year for the privilege of riding on the coat tails of Amazon's huge marketing clout, but the first year will be free as Amazon has waived the initial fee.

With more than 300,000 Android devices being activated every day, an alternative to Google's own distribution methods can only be a good thing for both developers and consumers.

Competition not only encourages innovation, it can also reduce prices as the major players cut their own throats (or those of their developers in Amazon's case) to grab sales.

Amazon has yet to officially announce an opening date for the Appstore and we suspect the outfit will spend some time building inventory before it flings the doors open. We'd be surprised if that were to happen much before April 2011.