Will a multitude of App Stores hurt Android?

Developers like the idea of multiple app stores and want them to get noticed

GetJar, Opera, Amazon and now Barnes & Noble-seems like these days everyone has their own Android app store with their own apps that can't be found anywhere else. While the joke these past few months has been that Steve Jobs doesn't "get "all these Android app stores, the real joke may be on the consumer.

Think of when you shop at the grocery store. You can't possibly find every brand represented in a single store. The big names like Coca-Cola and Kraft show up everywhere, but other smaller brands may not be on the shelves.

The same thing will soon be happening to Android. Big companies like Rovio, maker of the amazingly popular Angry Birds games, will release their apps across all kinds of markets, but smaller indie-developers will pick and choose where they want their applications to be sold. The reasoning behind this is that, while the big name apps will always dominate, indie-companies will gain better visibility in these new markets.

So while a small indie-game would be buried in the traditional Android Market, that same game could be the number one app in China under a third-party app store. Android has always been about choice, but is there any such thing as having too much choice?

Another thing to consider is malware. As we see more and more Android app stores launching, what is there to stop a third party from creating an app store that distributes malware? The DroidDream fiasco showed us that any app could potentially be infected with malware. Who knows if that copy of Bebbled you are downloading is a legitimate copy, or an evil clone set out to steal your data. Not everyone is going to be vetting Android apps before they go on sale.

At the recent Appnation developer conference in San Francisco, the biggest problem developers said they faced was getting their apps out so people could find and download them. However, the strategy of selectively choosing which app stores to support -- a concept that many developers favor -- may be more hurtful than helpful. Making people dig through multiple app stores just to find your product sounds like a convoluted way to market your goods. In his keynote Trip Hawkins, founder of Digital Chocolate, gave the conference the sound advice that simplicity and convenience are the best way to reach new customers. In my opinion, making potential customers go on wild goose hunts for apps is by no means convenient for users.

I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to have to search 10 different app stores to find an app that I want. Chances are I'll lose interest in that app, and pick the first one I find that does the same thing. To all the developers out there remember: Make things easier for your customers, and they will adore you for it.

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Armando Rodriguez

PC World (US online)
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