Sunday, April 17, 2011

Curated App Stores, Security, And Why The Next Kindle Will Be An Android Device

We have been having some interesting discussions internally about the recent Android malware fiasco and how things need to be improved if Android ever wants to be taken seriously as an OS fit for use in an enterprise environment.

There has been some serious rhetoric against Apple's "walled garden" approach in recent months but, like it or not from a philosophical standpoint, it certainly provides more protection for users than the Android Market. Some claim that the Apple approach stifles innovation. Pah! (Yes, I said "pah" - add to that a "pish and twaddle", if you will.) One needs look no further than the sheer number of apps to shoot holes in that argument. Granted far too many of them are designed to emulate the passing of gas - some of us might argue that more controls are required, not fewer!

At the other end of the spectrum there are some truly excellent apps. Evernote, PDF Reader, TeamViewer, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, QuickOffice, DocsToGo, SoundNote - these are all apps on which I rely daily. And for sheer awesomeness look no further than GarageBand and iMovie. No shortage of innovation and quality there then.

And from the point of view of the user - particularly the non-computer savvy user - all of this just works. Couple of clicks to search for your app. One click to purchase, download and install. And - most important of all - Trojan-free once it arrives. Curated app stores are essential to the well-being of the ecosystem.

Google needs to emulate that experience with its Market, though its very credo seems to suggest that will never happen. Yet without it the store will descend into anarchy, with users scared to purchase for fear of what new and terrible piece of malware they might be introducing to their phone or tablet.

So along comes Amazon from nowhere, and in one fell swoop it might have beaten Google at its own game. Amazon has the position of trust. It has the customer review infrastructure in place. It already has our credit card details (who hasn't bought anything from Amazon?) And now it has an Android Appstore (TM) to go with it. Now all it has to do is make sure that the stuff it sells is safe.

It has promised to do that, by applying both quality control and security vetting to the app review process. So why wouldn't you buy from there rather than the Google Android Market? Well, I would - I already have. But my Auntie Edna probably wouldn't. It is way more difficult than the Apple process, and right now requires a multi-step process just to get the Appstore app on your phone. It is not that difficult, but it is certainly a sub-optimal user experience compared with the "It Just Works" approach of Apple.

So what needs to happen for the Amazon Appstore (TM) to succeed? Simple - it needs to arrive pre-installed on Android devices. Lots of them. And while I am sure Amazon is probably in discussions with a bunch of carriers to achieve that objective, what better way to make sure it happens than to ship it in huge numbers on Amazon's very own Android tablet - The Kindle IV?

Give us that great Kindle experience with Android flexibility at a super-low price point, and you might just have your iPad-killer... I certainly haven't seen one among the devices announced so far.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter (@bwalder) to be kept informed of new research.