Android wars – Amazon responds to Google pressure with new app

12 Dec 2014

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Back in September e-commerce giant Amazon’s app in the Google Play Store suddenly included an app store of its own. Goggle didn’t like this. Now it’s changed.

Amazon’s primary shopping app, of which there are tens of millions of users, no longer appears in the Google Play Store. A new app, of which there are so far just 1,000 downloads, is in its place.

In a dispute between the two tech giants, what appears to have happened is Amazon’s inclusion of its in-app app store contravened Google’s business plans, but not its rules.

“Apparently,” as TechCrunch puts it, “it seems that Google was not cool with this at all.”

So Google quickly changed its rules, issued new developer policies, and Amazon had to take down its hugely popular app. It’s still there, it just doesn’t appear in the Play Store. In its stead is a new, almost identical Amazon app, lacking the ‘store’ capabilities.

Amazon apps, before and after, via Androidpolice.com

Android Police offers a summation of goings on, with a subtle alteration of section 4.5 of Google’s policies. In what used to be called the ‘Non-Compete’ clause, apps whose “primary purpose is to facilitate the distribution of software applications and games for use on Android devices outside of the Market,” were banned. Now, section 4.5 reads ‘Alternative Stores’, whereby an app can’t have “a purpose”, rather than primary purpose.

“You could make the argument that Amazon's Appstore was not the primary focus of the app when it was added in early September,” reads Android Police’s article. “Therefore, it was kind of okay. After the new dev agreement changed the language (or as Google says in the change summary provided ‘additional clarity’) for third-party apps, Amazon couldn’t make the argument that it was following the rules.”

What's worse, Amazon’s September app had other elements that are now affected by this change. Elements “including Prime Instant Video Streaming and the ability to download movies, apps and games – has now been relegated to yet another standalone application,” according to TechCrunch.

The battle between the two companies stretches farther than app capabilities, with Amazon having nabbed two acquisitions ahead of Google in recent months. In September, Amazon bought the suffix .buy on the internet for US$4.6m, while in August, after original reports linked Google to the ownership of Twitch, Amazon in fact bought the video platform for US$970m, making it the new kingmaker in the video-games space.

Android war image via Shutterstock

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Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com