Walmart, Amazon deliver iPad apps bypassing Apple: I suddenly feel anxious
Walmart, Amazon deliver iPad apps bypassing Apple
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. on Wednesday each introduced new iPad applications that bypass Apple Inc.'s revenue cut for apps distributed through the iTunes store.
Walmart launched an iPad version of its Vudu online video streaming service using a desktop shortcut that looks and acts like an app.
Amazon, meanwhile, unveiled the Kindle Cloud Reader, which similarly lets customers read Kindle electronic books on the iPad even without an Internet connection.
Both services were programmed using the HTML5 Web browser protocol, which gives Walmart and Amazon the ability to reach iPad owners directly without an app that is subject to Apple's mandatory 30 percent cut.
"Obviously, by doing the browser, there's no additional economic burden placed on us that potentially would come from an app," Vudu General Manager Edward Lichty said during an interview in the Brisbane headquarters of Walmart.com, the online arm of the retail giant.
Dorothy Nicholls, director of Amazon's Kindle division, said the Cloud Reader's design gives the company more flexibility to reach beyond Apple's mobile platform.
"The flexibility of HTML5 allows us to build one application that automatically adapts to the platform you're using - from Chrome to iOS," she said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Apple announced it would enforce its revenue-sharing rules for purchases made within apps distributed through iTunes. But media companies complained about having to hand over such a large slice of subscription revenue sold through apps. The Financial Times of London in June launched a Web-based version for smart phones and tablets to avoid the fee.
Vudu hopes to mount a strong challenge to Netflix, the current runaway leader in streaming online movies and TV shows. And to extend its reach into the rapidly growing mobile market, Vudu used Apple's own technologies to bypass the iTunes store.
The company encoded its video with Apple's Live Streaming technology, and the service uses the company's Safari Web browser. Using HTML5 also gets around Apple's ban on Adobe's Flash multimedia playback technology.
Instead of downloading an app, Vudu customers have to click an "Add to Home Screen" button on Vudu.com to install an app-style icon on the iPad desktop.
Similarly, Amazon made its Kindle Cloud Reader compatible with Safari on the iPad as well as Google's Chrome browser, and plans to add Internet Explorer, Firefox and the BlackBerry PlayBook browsers in coming months.
Lichty said the browser solution was "the right path for us" rather than creating an app and submitting it to Apple's "uncertain" approval process.
"Apple said from the get-go that we want the iPad to be the best Web browsing experience anywhere, and we take them at their word," Lichty said.
Santa Clara's Vudu offers a library of about 20,000 movies and TV shows available to rent for between $1 to $6 each or for purchase at between $4.99 to $19.99. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. bought Santa Clara's Vudu in 2010 for $100 million, and the company has since been integrating its technology into Web-connected TVs and Blu-ray players.
Late last year, Vudu moved into Sony's popular PlayStation 3 game platform and "business has tripled since January," Lichty said.
But while Walmart is betting on the future of online video, the company is throwing in the towel on its MP3 Music Downloads store. The retailer launched the online store in 2003 but remained only a small blip in the shadow of Apple's market-dominating iTunes store.
"We recently notified our music partners that we've made a business decision to no longer offer MP3 digital tracks as of August 29, 2011," according to a statement from Walmart spokesman Ravi Jariwala.
"We'll continue to provide support to our customers who previously purchased digital music through Walmart Music Downloads so they may continue to enjoy and manage their existing WMA files."
E-mail Benny Evangelista at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page D - 1 of the SanÂ FranciscoÂ Chronicle