Underground Movement

Amazon Underground Intercepts Google Play

Amazon_Underground_lLast week, we wrote about Google’s challenge to Amazon’s Twitch (see Daily Insight: YouTube Gaming Goes Live). Twitch.tv has achieved an amazing level of engagement, and Google intends to grab a piece of the live-streaming action with its new YouTube Gaming hub. There are differences in their core businesses, but the overlap in interest areas between the two companies has been growing. From cloud computing to TV sticks, Amazon and Google have developed into key competitors.

This competition extended further last week with the introduction of Amazon Underground. It’s essentially an Android app store wrapped within an Amazon app, and a way for Amazon to wrestle some control of the Android installed base by intercepting Google’s app store via a free app giveaway.

It works like this: Android users are required to change their device settings to allow the installation of the app from “unknown sources”, and can then install Underground directly from Amazon’s site rather than the Play Store. Users gain access to up to $10,000 worth of free apps and in-app payment features such as chapters. Amazon Underground also includes all the functionality of Amazon’s mobile shopping app, enabling users to browse and buy, scan product bar codes to compare prices and access content like movies.

The Underground programme is only available to users in France, Germany, the UK and US, though developers worldwide can participate. Supported devices include the latest Android phones and tablets, BlackBerry 10 devices and Amazon Fire tablets.

Amazon will pay developers 12 cents for each individual hour that the app is used. The company gets to foster a relationship with developers as well as enjoy increased user engagement and usage stats on mobile devices, driving revenue via sales and ads. However, the business model appears uncertain as the figures add up — an Underground user running a subsidized app for an hour per day for a year would cost Amazon $44 in developer payments.

The company explains that Underground is a long-term investment, stating plans to add more features to the service over time. It’s already taking on the role of a one-stop shop for all things Amazon, and is likely to provide users with more reasons to stay connected to the company throughout the day.

Amazon certainly doesn’t have the platform clout of Google, but Underground provides some users with a reason to bypass Google’s store and funnels more of the on-device experience into its Underground ecosystem. The company’s hardware hasn’t disrupted the market, but its Underground movement stands a better chance.

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