January 17, 2013

Amazon MP3 App Uses HTML5 to Provide Music without Apple Payoff

The idea of HTML5 as a counter to the idea of the traditional app store is one that’s been taking on a new life lately, but one of the biggest pushes in that direction may well have just made an appearance courtesy of a newly-released app from Amazon. It’s not on the Apple App Store. It’s not on Google (News Alert) Play. It’s where it is, however, that’s going to make the biggest impact of all.

The newly-released Amazon MP3 music store app is available as a Web-based app accessed through Safari, meaning that, instead of the 30 percent commission that Apple (News Alert) would normally get for sales of an app, now they get nothing, meaning all the proceeds from Amazon’s MP3 music store app go directly to Amazon. This isn’t the first time someone has tried to release a Web-based app rather than an app store-specific version to try and cut out Apple; the Times tried it once, as did Kobo’s bookstore.

By all reports, there isn’t much of a difference between the Amazon MP3 store app and what its equivalent likely would have looked like on an app store. There are gesture controls in place to swipe through carousels of songs, 30 second previews, recommendations based on previous purchases, autocomplete functions for easier searching and price comparisons, complete with easy purchase options. There are fully two million albums, as well as 23 million individual songs, available from which to choose.

The new Amazon Web store works with the Amazon Cloud Player app, likely a particularly galling move for Apple, as it provides access to all the music purchased on Amazon but without giving Amazon a cut of that access. Some have even begun to wonder if this might not mean a bit of a blow for Apple’s iTunes service; after all, with the Amazon Cloud Player and Amazon Web store now much easier to reach and access via iOS device, it might spur people on to make more purchases from the Amazon services, especially with the improvements in versatility thanks to the Amazon Cloud Player.

While this certainly is an issue, it’s not the only one at stake here. While Kobo and The Times have tried this before, they tried it in a time before HTML5 was really starting to catch on. This necessarily limited what their apps could do. Amazon, meanwhile, has quite a bit more HTML5 presence going on in its operations, and can by extension do a lot more, so that leaves several interesting questions.

Will we see a lot of former Apple properties decide that access to Apple’s massive market–and make no mistake, it’s still massive–isn’t worth the 30 percent cut that Apple demands in exchange? How will Apple respond to this; will it lower its demanded cut to keep apps in the fold? Or will it stand on the strength of its value-add, and say that access to its audience is worth the cut stated?

The coming months are likely to prove very destabilizing when it comes to the app stores out there, especially now that the W3C (NewsAlert) has pinned down HTML5 specs and is working on HTML5.1. Only time will tell how this all shakes out, but we may well be looking at a very different landscape to come.

Edited by Brooke Neuman


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