Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Amazon MPS Could Enable Real App Store Competition

A couple of weeks ago, just before CTIA in San Diego, made an announcement I somehow missed in the cacophony of show announcements, but that just may come to be regarded as a watershed moment in the history of mobile commerce. The Seattle e-retailer, said in a press release, that it was opening up its 1-Click checkout service to mobile developers and distribution channels through a series of APIs and an "optimized mobile browser experience." They call the service Amazon Mobile Payment Service or Amazon MPS.

So why is this important? One of the key components of Apple's phenomenal, meteoric rise to success in the mobile content space has been their legacy billing infrastructure... iTunes. Think about it, how many companies have your credit card on file and have authorization to bill that card with one click of a mouse or the D-pad? Remember that the seamless, established billing relationship, inherent in operator billing, was what was sexy about mobile content (post-dotcom) in the first place... but unfortunately, it eventually became clear that operators didn't know how to sell content. Now that every handset OEM, Google, tout le monde is opening up an "app store" to prove that it can be a digital merchant, this basic component has gone missing. I think the notion that consumers will feel comfortable surrendering their credit card and opting-in to future billing in order to facilitate their first purchase on Nokia's Ovi Store, or that they'll gladly link that tired ole PayPal account (where's that password anyway?) to Blackberry App World, is hopeful at best. For most folks Amazon, like Apple, is in the billing circle of trust.

So finally it looks like there's a weapon in the arsenal that will allow the most ambitious mobile content retailers to do battle with Apple, without the carrier... at least on the billing front ('cause they still need to build a compelling retail experiences, by the way). The whole mobile content ecosystem (content owners, developers, publishers and consumers) is screaming for meaningful challengers to Apple's dominance. Without competition Apple will have free reign to define consumers' content options and dictate wholesale and retail pricing. My recommendation to Nokia, Samsung, RIM, etc. is to seriously consider Amazon MPS to help them fight the good fight in the interest of at least being a strong second player (because it ain't bad being Target)... or don't, and leave it to those savvy guys at Handmark, who have already implemented it, or to the series of application creators I've spoken with recently (who currently sell via WAP and online) who are keen to deploy this purchase mechanism within their own specialty retail stores.

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