Amazon is apparently preparing to launch an Android App Store as early as this month. Meanwhile, GigaOm's Kevin C. Tofel talks about how the real iPad challenge might come from Amazon in the form of an Android tablet. I love it!
Why? I could easily jump from iPhone/iPad to the Android platform this summer because my AT&T contract expires in June. If the Samsung Galaxy Tablet I tried at the AT&T store recently is any indication, nobody is offering a compelling iPad alternative on the Android platform...yet. Amazon could be uniquely positioned to do just that.
It's pretty clear that Steve Jobs was partially right a few years ago when he said, "People don't read anymore." The comparison of apps, songs and books downloaded through iTunes might lead you to believe Steve was totally right. What's missing from that chart though is information on book downloads from Amazon, B&N, etc., for customers using those other apps on their iPad. In other words, people are still reading books...they're just not buying those books through the iBookstore. No wonder Apple wants to start enforcing that in-app purchase policy.
The irony in all this is that a major book retailer already has an Android tablet. Sort of. The retailer is B&N and the pseudo-tablet is called Nook Color. I call it a pseudo-tablet because it's really indended to be an ereader with a few add-on apps. In order to get the full Android potential out of a Nook Color you have to hack it, thereby voiding the warranty. Some owners are doing that but most are stuck with the limited functionality B&N intended for it. That's too bad.
Could Amazon make the same mistake? Sure, but I hope not. There are two reasons they might though. The first one has to do with customer support. The Android platform isn't as tightly controlled as Apple's iOS. Even though Amazon could decide when and what OS updates to push out there are all those third-party apps that make support that much harder. That's a somewhat legitimate issue, but not anything that's insurmountable.
The other reason Amazon could follow B&N's lead though has to do with concerns over other e-reader apps on the Android platform. Would Amazon really want to develop and sell their own Android app if other ebook retailers could offer apps for it? I hope so. The winner in the ebook retailer game won't be the one who builds the most walls around their platform. This game will be won by the retailer with the best reader app, one that keeps adding more and more innovative functionality and isn't limited to just one hardware platform like the iBookstore is.
Amazon, if you get into the Android tablet market, do it with an open product. Make it one I want to run out and buy, not something that concerns me with too many restrictions and limitations.
P.S. -- B&N, you guys are already more than halfway there with Color Nook. It would be a shame to see Amazon steal a page from your playbook and create a better mousetrap. If you're serious about competing here you should take the lead and make the Color Nook the true Android tablet it deserves to be.