Is the Amazon Appstore Lowering the Bar for Android Tablets?

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Anyone who follows CES can attest to the astonishing number of Android tablets that have debuted over the past two years. Many of those devices came from unknown Asian manufacturers without any brand recognition in the Android or mobile computing space. While these tablets run Google's OS—and can even have the Google Apps suite and access to the Android Market provided they meet certain standards—lesser-known tablet manufacturers now have a back-door route to avoid the process of vetting by Google, the Amazon Appstore.

Without access to the Android Market, it would seem like tablet manufacturers would have trouble selling an Android device. That's where Amazon comes in. The Amazon Appstore is fluid, good-looking, and comprehensive. It's also made by a company with a great name and a foundation in digital downloads. However, we've noticed that companies such as Viewsonic have used the Amazon Appstore to bypass the Android Market and push their tablets out to market.

While Viewsonic does make good-quality hardware, it's just one of many manufacturers taking this shortcut. With the Amazon Appstore in tow, anyone who wants to rush a low-quality Android tablet to market can do so and still have access to thousands of apps. This doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a quality tablet.

Google's vetting of equipment manufacturers allows for a certain amount of quality control. When a manufacturer doesn't meet the company's guidelines—or doesn't even submit its device to Google—you end up with slower devices that have less-responsive displays and a poor user experience.

Many of the MIDs first seen at CES 2010 and again at CES 2011 are devices that haven't met Google's guidelines. One such tablet, from Augen GenTouch, went on sale at K-Mart last summer. Probably hoping to amp up the appeal of their lackluster tablet, the folks at Augen went ahead and used the Google Apps suite and Android Market without getting Google's permission.  Soon after, the Augen tablet was pulled off the shelves at K-Mart.

Because Android is open source, anyone who can code can use it. Still, when tablet manufacturers don't get Google approval, users suffer from the lack of Google apps and access to the Android Market. The Amazon Appstore may now provide another option for getting content on non-Google-approved devices, but this only makes it easier to bring a half-baked product to market.

Thedroidguy is a regular guest contributor to Laptopmag. He boasts the largest independent Android following on Twitter, and he is one of the top three Android influencers in the world on Twitter. You can follow him @thedroidguy or visit him at Views expressed by Thedroidguy are his own.

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  • Justa Notherguy Says:

    Certainly - without (necessarily) intending it, that's exactly what Amazon's new App Store has done.

    And this is typical of what happens when market forces are allowed to exert themselves. Unbound by the artificial strictures imposed by anal retentive overseers like Mr. Jobs, participants in a competitive marketplace will go to great lengths in looking for the right marketing mix (Product, Price, Place, Promotion). Watching businesses struggle to adapt and overcome is half the fun of capitalism and arguably its big advantage over centrally-planned economic systems.

    It's like Jeff Goldblum's line from Jurassic Park: "Life finds a way."

    Of course, the big question is whether this kind of market activity is beneficial for the Android ecosystem. Over the long term, I see it as helping but in the short-term it could be harmful. The average consumer is under-informed about technical matters, as well as (often) somewhat short-sighted and fickle in their buying habits. If sub-par Android tablets generate enough negative publicity, it's possible this could set back any chance that OS has of catching up with Apple's products.

    But the good news is that any builders too cheap - or too stupid - to include Google's native apps also have too little market reach to cause significant disruption. The only people buying tablets at KMart (they're still in business?) are bargain hunting geeks and less affluent folks who aren't tech trendsetters in any sense of the word. As long as Google and its major partners keep pushing out a steady stream of improvements, Android has nowhere to go but up as a brand.

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