Amazon, clearly feeling the heat from the Apple device coming out in two days, is making some moves with Kindle. In the space of a few weeks, they have altered the publisher/Amazon split, announced an SDK, and are offering a money-back guarantee for frequent book buyers [links via daringfireball.net].
Amazon has a real chance to win the hearts of developers because of few key differences between their offering and Apple’s.
- Because of the free 3G, Amazon needs to have a class of apps that are subscription based. This may seem like a downside, but if you can keep the monthly cost low, this gives an Amazon app something that has been missing from the Apple AppStore: Recurring Revenue
- Amazon is a clear leader and innovator in e-commerce — specifically cross-selling. I think it’s very likely that Amazon will be able to surface apps all over their store. Make an app that helps people choose a digital camera, and it may be promoted on every camera page.
- The Kindle will be one-third to one-half the price of the Apple device, which makes it very attractive to do a large rollout to a mobile workforce. Insurance adjusters, delivery truck drivers, on-site construction, etc. need to read documents — they don’t need an iPod, fart apps, or games.
- The Kindle will probably always be smaller, lighter, and use less power — Apple could surprise me here, but the Kindle is so low-powered, it’s unlikely that they can’t keep up.
- Hardware keyboard — Apple could clearly innovate here — I’m guessing with an external bluetooth keyboard. If so, that adds bulk, weight and sucks battery.
- The e-ink display — no color is a downside, but the e-ink can be read outside — again, think outdoor, mobile workforce.
- Amazon’s Kindle DRM and book deleting are cause for concern, but if they have any sense, they will learn from Apple’s experience with AppStore rejections and loosen up. It doesn’t appear that they will from my first looks at the KDK.
Subscription apps + good enough for business will be a big win for developers. Business apps don’t go for $0.99 — the equivalent might turn out to be $5/month for something simple, and businesses won’t blink. Better than the up-front price is that you get a predictable income stream that isn’t subject to the whim of the top 25 lists.
This isn’t to say that Kindle will beat Apple in any quantifiable way (number of apps, number of downloads, number of customers, etc), but I think that the kinds of stories of real businesses being built on the Kindle store will be quite different from the lottery that the iPhone app market appears to be.