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Privacy v. Piracy, Can Amazon Appease Developers and Consumers with Android Amazon Appstore

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It’s been no big secret that Amazon is planning on using its huge digital experience to launch its own proprietary applications marketplace for Android to rival the native Google Android Market. In the past, the problem with Android Market is that Google’s DRM policies–which helps to protect apps from piracy–were weak and is among the reasons why few developers have ported apps to Android despite the platform’s growing popularity. Hopefully, with Amazon’s expertise in digital content management, DRM, and cloud-based storage, this will be a non-issue in the future and a rival Android app store could help to bring more apps to users while protecting developer’s works with a workable DRM.

In a note to developers, Amazon says that purchased apps from the Amazon app store will be stored in the cloud and consumers can download and re-download the app to devices that they own, provided that those devices meet the minimum hardware or software requirements to run the app, like for instance the use of a dual-core CPU.

To allay developers’ fears of losing the war on software pirates, Amazon says:

An authorized user can now install your app on any of their supported devices; however, if you chose to apply DRM on your app at submission time, your app will not run on unauthorized devices.

However, while developers are concerned about piracy, consumers are concerned about privacy. According to Amazon, which was vague on how its DRM check would work, the app would check in with the Amazon Appstore to validate the license, which stirs concerns about privacy:

Any app that has Amazon DRM applied to it will require users to have installed and signed-in to the Amazon Appstore client to access the app. When an app is accessed by the user, it will verify with the Amazon Appstore device service as to whether the user has an entitlement to the app. If the user does not sign in or does not have an entitlement to that app, then the app will not be usable. However, any user can gain an entitlement by purchasing the app through Amazon.

However, according to Android Central, the process isn’t as scary as Amazon may have lead you to believe. Amazon has since clarified its language to say that only if the developer has applied the Amazon DRM–which is optional–will the app need to check in to validate the license. Second, if the DRM has been applied, the app will only check in once at initial launch. Once that initial check in has occurred, your Android handset will download a digital token, which is similar to a cookie for the browser, in which the app can refer to that token offline in the future to validate itself as having a valid license.

Tech enthusiast in Silicon Valley enjoying the possibilities of ubiquitous connectivity, information sharing, and collaboration enabled by mobile broadband. You can contact Chuong on Twitter @chuongvision or search +chuongvision on Google+.

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