A hard-to-believe example of a platform flexing its power

The Kindle is looking more and more valuable every day. The device that is.

Why?

Because Android just got an update that gives new meaning to ‘Taking Advantage of the Power of the Default’.

Platforms and the Power of the Default

A platform can set the defaults, i.e. the apps users are first pointed to, the apps that are downloaded by default, the apps that show up on the first page and on the most visited pages.

That gives a platform a huge advantage whenever it decides to release an app of its own. Apple took some advantage of the power of the default when it released iBooks – It did a few things, though not many, to make sure iBooks was the first reading app that users were exposed to.

Android Market’s Books section shows Apple was extremely generous to rival ebook apps

Apple gave iBooks a bit of an edge but Apple was rather civil to rival ebook apps – until the recent push to impose a 30% tax. Note: Apple hasn’t come out and said eBook reading apps will be taxed. However, we can all agree that Apple hasn’t promised to exclude eBook apps from the tax either. That suggests it might be waiting for the right moment.

Apple seems like an angel compared to what a rival platform, Android, is doing. The Android Market is taking the power of the default to a whole new level.

Android Market added a new section titled ‘Books’  – It goes side by side with Android Apps. The big thing is that ‘Android Books’ only has books from Google eBooks. It’s basically the equivalent of setting up a sub-platform on a platform, claiming it’s the ‘Books Market’, and then only showing books from the Platform provider. It’s hilariously unfair.

To be absolutely clear of how big of a contrast this is -

  1. Apple provides one app in its App Store that you can optionally download. Apple’s ‘Books’ section of the App Store has everyone highlighted. There are tens of thousands of books and ebook reading apps.
  2. In the Android Market, there is now a new Books market that has books only from the platform provider. Everyone looking for books will first go to the Android Books Market, and there they will find nothing except Google eBooks.

Not sure how Google thinks it can get away with this.

Android Books maximizes the power of the Default

Will users search within the Android app store and find the ‘Books and Reference Apps’ section and look at the 12 paid apps and 12 free apps that are highlighted? Or will they look at the prominently featured ‘Android Books’ section of the Android Market and just go there most of the time?

It’s almost impossible to search for book apps in the Android Market if you don’t already know what you’re looking for. Now, on top of that invisibility for reading apps, you have visibility for the ‘Android Books’ store on every single page of the Android Market – It just so happens that the ‘Android Books’ store consists solely of books from the platform provider.

Android is showing us how you can really use the power of the default to get an unfair advantage.

  1. Android Market has an apps section and a books section. Everyone equates the books section with where you go to get books.
  2. The Book Apps section of Android Market, and the eReader Apps in it, are given low visibility. The low visibility for book apps and the poor search feature in the Android Market make it hard to get to book apps – it’s as if they don’t exist.
  3. The Books section of the Android Market, which is prominently featured, only has books from the platform provider.

For users that don’t know there are options, or users who don’t want to take the time to search through the already hard-to-search Android App Market, the only thing that exists is the default.

How can a Nook App or a Kindle App compete when the default Books Store only has books from Google?

It should be painfully clear that Platforms want ebook profits for themselves

Here’s the current status quo -

  1. Apple was very decent, but now there’s a chance it will extends its 30% tax to ebook apps. Apple could come out and say ‘No tax for ebook apps’, but it hasn’t – It seems quite likely that all content sales will get taxed eventually.
  2. Android Platform has lost its mind. It’s created an Android Books section that only features its own offerings. Combine that with the low visibility for book apps on Android and it means that most reading apps and book apps might as well be invisible.

eBook apps now face huge barriers and uncertainty on two of the big mobile platforms. That only leaves Blackberry and Nokia/Windows 7. If either or both of those start becoming more successful there’s a chance they will start behaving like Apple and Android.

The free ride is over.

The ‘Kindle App for iPhone is the Best Business Decision of the Decade’ illusion is now painfully apparent as an illusion.

All the companies putting a ton of effort into enriching other companies’ platforms are getting what they deserved for being so gullible. Whether it’s an ‘open’ platform like Android, or a ‘closed’ one like Apple we now know two things -

  1. Platforms always want a cut. Any company that makes a lot of profit from a platform should be aware that sooner or later the platform will want a 30% cut on revenue – which translates into most of the profit.
  2. Platforms always give their own offerings an advantage. A ‘closed’ and ‘evil’ company like Apple does this by featuring its eReader app more prominently. An ‘open’ and ‘good’ company like Android does this by creating an entire Android Books Store that has nothing except its own offerings.

Platforms control everything and whether they use a visible ‘30% tax’ or an invisible ‘power of the default’ strategy it should be clear that the Platform always wins.

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