Monday, May 30, 2011

Amazon Challenges Apple With New Mac App Store


A Mac downloads store has been opened by Amazon.com even as it faces an Apple lawsuit for using the "app store" name for Android apps. Amazon's Mac offerings are a direct challenge to Apple's own Mac App Store, though with fewer offerings. An analyst said Amazon's Mac store was a "surprise," and Apple is likely to watch closely.

Even before a court decides whether Amazon.com can sell apps Relevant Products/Services for Android devices and call it an app store Relevant Products/Services, the biggest U.S. online retailer opened a second front this week by offering downloadable software Relevant Products/Services for Apple's Macintosh computers.

That's a direct challenge to Apple's own Mac App Store, first announced in October at the company's Back To Mac event and opened Jan. 6 with 1,000 offerings, mostly games, compared to about 250 for Amazon's store.

Incentives Needed

The Mac offerings aren't new but were assembled without fanfare as a Mac Software Downloads section of the site on Thursday, with another section for games, but Amazon avoided calling it an app store -- a phrase Apple wants to trademark.

In March Apple filed suit against Amazon, alleging that its App Store for Android software is used illicitly to solicit developers. Amazon insists "app store" is a generic term.

Amazon told news media the "Mac download store features an install-less download process where the customer gets just the product without any unwanted extras, making for faster and easier purchases. Plus, downloads are conveniently backed up in your Games and Software Library where you can download an unlimited number of times for personal use."

The Mac download store's initial offerings include Office Mac for home ($115) and businesses ($199), Aspyr's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare ($24.95), Individual Software's Logo Designer ($19.99), and H&R Block At Home Deluxe Federal and State eFile for 2010 ($31.98). Visitors can "celebrate the grand opening with a $5 discount on game or software products through June 1st."

Amazon, which had more than $34.2 billion in sales last year, will need to give loyal Mac customers an incentive to shop there.

The company kicked off its Android store by offering one free app per day for visitors, regardless of whether they buy anything.

Let the Battle Begin

"It's going to be interesting to see how consumers are going to react to this app store," said Michael Gartenberg of Gartner Relevant Products/Services Research. "Perhaps they'll try to undercut Apple's prices with promotions."

He said the emergence of the Mac download store "came as a little bit of a surprise. There was certainly no advance warning, it just kind of appeared, and now we're seeing Mac apps in direct competition, although they can't sell anything for the iPhone because that's a closed ecosystem."

After reporting more than a million downloads on the first day of the Mac App Store, Apple can probably expect some continued loyalty, but Gartenberg said Amazon's move is bound to be watched closely.

"It's something that if you're Apple, you don't want to ignore; you want to pay attention because Amazon has a lot of credit cards and it's fairly easy to purchase there," he said, referring to cards that award points toward gift cards for the site. "But their music sales haven't taken much business Relevant Products/Services from iTunes. So [Apple] may not lose a lot of sleep, but they probably want to keep an eye on it."

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