Online retailer and services provider Amazon plans to take its Appstore for Android mobile application store global, claiming it will expand to around 200 countries in the coming months. Major new markets to be covered by the expansion include Australia, Brazil, India, Mexico, and South Korea.
Until now, Amazon's store had been available for its domestic US market (since 2011), major European countries and Japan (both since the latter half of 2012). In each of these cases, Amazon followed the store's arrival with the launch of its Kindle Fire tablet.
Developers that have already registered for international app distribution will have their apps automatically made available as the store launches in the new countries, unless they request otherwise.
Amazon's move is the latest demonstration of its commitment to establishing a major Android mobile content channel outside the realm of Google Play. This will increase Amazon's ability to present itself as a potential partner should an OEM wish to launch devices without Google's proprietary apps, as the lack of an app store with a global reach was a significant limitation. Alternatives to most other proprietary Google apps already exist.
Amazon will strengthen its appeal with developers that may have been reluctant to sign up for a distribution channel with a limited international footprint, but challenges still remain.
This takes Amazon's app reach way beyond its traditional retail footprint and into many markets where credit card penetration is low and online and mobile payments are far from a mature business. As such, Amazon may need to innovate around billing, partner third parties (which could see the results of its long-reported deal with UK-based mobile billing provider Bango as well as local deals), and do more to source and target local content to markets where it doesn't yet have an established presence.
Some may see this move as a precursor to a potential Amazon-branded smartphone, but in the short term this is more likely the first stage towards a wider international rollout of Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets.
Despite this expansion, one of the keys to success as a smartphone application store remains the ability to arrive preinstalled on the device. Unless Amazon strikes deals to get its store preloaded, the Appstore's primary role will likely remain as a tablet store for Kindle Fire.
Amazon's Appstore is unlikely to usurp Google Play's dominance of the Android mobile content market, but it does show how Google can face challenges within the Android ecosystem.
The recent launch of Facebook Home-a launcher that provides a Facebook-branded Android experience (but not a content store) and is available from Google Play-is another example. Alternative application stores are not permitted in Google Play.