When the Amazon Kindle Fire started shipping on Monday, it did so with its own app store. Instead of embracing the open Android ecosystem, Amazon asks developers to submit their apps for approval — Apple style.
Despite this somewhat risky move, developers are largely embracing one of Android’s first gated communities.
In a recent IDC survey of more than 2,000 developers worldwide, the Amazon Kindle Fire garnered the second-most interest from developers among 15 Android tablets — second only to the Samsung Galaxy Tab. In North America, it was the top tablet, and the percentage of developers who said they were interested in developing for it was just four points less than the percentage who were interested in developing for the iPad before its launch in April 2010.
Netflix, Rhapsody, Pandora, Twitter, Comics by comiXology, Facebook, The Weather Channel and Zynga are all launch partners for the Kindle Fire.
The new device’s “thousands” of apps are still a far cry from iTunes’s 500,000 apps, but the sense of developer approval must be a relief for Amazon. When Amazon hijacked the Android platform with its own look, browser and app store, it gained the advantage of drawing users into its specific experience. But part of what any tablet competes on are the apps it makes accessible, and requiring developers to jump through extra hoops to launch them could have left the Kindle Fire’s app store sparse. The tablet already lacks features such as a camera, GPS and an external microphone that render many apps useless.
One reason that some developers have been eager to develop for the Kindle Fire store — even those who ignored a similar closed Android app store that Barnes & Noble launched for the Nook Color in April — is that they expect the Kindle Fire to be successful.
“Given the price point and distribution that [Amazon] has, this is going to benefit the Android ecosystem as a whole,” says Zillow Senior Director of Mobile Strategy Jeremy Wacksman, whose team launched a Kindle Fire app on Monday (pictured below).
Songza, an Amazon-backed music startup, is launching a Kindle Fire app before its Android tablet app or iPad app. Co-founder Elias Roman said that one factor in the decision to do so was a desire to be an early adopter on “the Android tablet that will matter more than any of the others.”
Findings from ChangeWave Research suggest demand for the Kindle Fire outpaced demand for the iPad before the former device was available. As Rhapsody Vice President of Business Development Brian McGarvey puts it, “it’s selling like hotcakes.”
McGarvey also pointed out that developing for the Kindle Fire isn’t particularly difficult for companies that already have a more general Android app. The Kindle Fire uses Android 2.3 instead of Android’s tablet-specific OS, Honeycomb. Rhapsody and other developers only needed to make slight modifications in their Android apps in order to create Kindle Fire apps (though many have done more), and this could be one reason some of them are launching Kindle Fire apps before general Android tablet apps.
Like the Nook Color and the new Nook Tablet, the Kindle Fire caters to content over apps. It makes sense for content-oriented apps such as Rhapsody, Pandora and Netflix to be on both platforms, and they are. But could the Kindle Fire’s potential competitiveness with the iPad make its Android-based platform a bigger hit with a wider range developers?