Amazon is stepping up its game to woo app and game developers to its Kindle Fire platform, and developers are liking what they see.
The introduction of the Kindle Fire didn't go all that smoothly. As soon as reviewers got their hands on the first units, reports began to surface of an underpowered device whose UI experience was anything but smooth. Some privacy experts questioned what Amazon was going to do with the treasure-trove of browsing data it was collecting from its innovative cloud-based Silk browser. And developers chafed at the delays in getting their apps approved in Amazon's new app store.
To address the latter pain point, at least, Amazon has been staffing up with specialists who work with developers to make the whole process smoother, according to a report by Reuters. One result is that app-store approval times have dropped to a less than week, compared to the several weeks at launch last fall, according to some developers. The process of building up excellent developer relations, which Apple went through over three years -- from the time its App Store opened in mid-2008 -- Amazon is trying to compress to a year.
Having lots of apps and games running on the Fire is necessary to make the platform attractive. By itself the Fire is at best a breakeven product, possibly a loss leader, that provides the proverbial razor in order to sell the blades -- Amazon's library of movies, books, songs, and TV shows.
But that hoary marketing analogy strains to capture the full complexity of the Kindle Fire's situation. The apps and games themselves are looking like a big profit opportunity for Amazon. The company's 30-percent cut of app and game revenues (the same fraction Apple and Google take) could yield a business with 10 percent margins, far better than the 3 to 5 percent generated by Amazon's core retail operations, according to a Lazard analyst quoted by Reuters. And the business of apps and games is headed for $67 billion a year by 2015, again according to Lazard, with games alone accounting for $30 billion of that.
Niccolo de Masi, CEO of game developer Glu Mobile, told Reuters that Amazon has "a very good chance of being the number three player in developer revenues, ahead of Microsoft" and behind Apple and Google. This opinion is bolstered by tales of developers happy with what Amazon is offering.
For example, Amazon gives developers visibility into app downloads and the progress of in-app sales -- details that both Apple and Google hold onto closely. And Amazon is much more upfront than the other platforms about how it will promote apps. There are options for both free (curated) and developer-paid promotions, something that neither Apple nor Google offers.
Like Apple, Amazon has their customers' credit card details on file, so that when a Kindle Fire user downloads an app or game, it's linked automatically to Amazon's payment system. Amazon customers are accustomed to spending money there, to a greater degree even than at Apple. This means that the average revenue per user tends to be higher at Amazon, according to one developer -- "For certain games they are the highest of any platform we work with."
If you are a mobile developer, have you looked at Amazon's platform? What did you think?