Amazon.com has updated its mobile app store to include support for its Chinese customers, in a sign that the U.S. company could be preparing to sell its Kindle e-readers and tablets in the country.
The update effectively launches a new version of Amazon's app store built in the Chinese language. The store comes in the form of an Android app, and the company has been promoting it since this past weekend.
The arrival of the new store comes just months after Amazon launched its Kindle e-book service in China last December. Both are key platforms for bringing content to the company's Kindle devices in the U.S. market. But in China, Amazon has yet to start selling its tablet and e-reader hardware, and its local offices have been mum on a future release date. The company on Monday did not immediately respond for comment.
Despite the absence of official sales, the Chinese market is showing some "pent-up demand" for Amazon's e-readers, said Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting. Research data from last year showed that Chinese consumers were increasingly buying the e-readers from overseas markets, he added.
Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets could also sell well in the country, Natkin said. Apple currently dominates the nation's tablet sector, but the company largely focuses on the higher-end market. Amazon's Kindle Fire products, which start at US$159, could appeal to many consumers wanting a lower-priced device from a well-known brand, he added.
Lenovo became the country's second largest tablet vendor after Apple, with a 14 percent market share, by its focus on budget tablets, according to analysts.
Though a big name in the U.S., Amazon is, however, a small player in China's e-commerce market. It faces fierce competition from the local rivals, including Alibaba Group's Taobao sites and 360buy, another major online shopping mall. Both Taobao and 360buy also sell e-books.
China's market is also already saturated with local app stores, some of which are operated by handset makers and telecom operators. Amazon's new Chinese app store has been designed to include more local products. Software from Chinese social networking site Sina Weibo and video-sharing hub Youku Tudou are listed, but U.S. apps including Netflix and Twitter are not.