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Amazon Windowshop a Test Run for its Own App Store

This week Amazon (AMZN) launched the Windowshop app on the Apple (APPL) iPad. A vast improvement over its previous, generic shopping app, the simple, slick purchasing interface is a great test for Amazon's upcoming app store - and could be the perfect way to stay connected to Apple as it explores Google (GOOG) Android opportunities.

Windowshop addresses one of Amazon's biggest problems: Forcing the user to purchase via the browser. Many Amazon products do not have their own individual apps, so it makes sense to open up the web browser to search, select and purchase items. The issue occurs when supposedly self-contained apps, like the popular Kindle, makes the user leave the app to make a purchase and reopen the app to actually access the virtual good. The new interface is truly self-contained, as users can purchase an item within the system and keep browsing as they wish. Books and music can be previewed in-app, too (as shown in the picture).

It also serves as a nice incremental step between an Amazon tablet-friendly redesign which, at this point, seems inevitable. Twitter has adapted its website to the tablet -- let's be honest here, iPad -- format and, just this week, MySpace has done its first major revamp in years. Not every customer will download Windowshop, so Amazon will have to eventually provide the Windowshop experience in-browser, too.

Delaying a tablet-friendly revamp isn't necessarily a bad thing, either, as Amazon needs as many Windowshop users as possible for two reasons.

First, Windowshop is a good dry run for its upcoming Amazon app store. The feedback it will receive on the usability and design will be invaluable - and, as I argued a few weeks back, Amazon could use all the help it can get.

Second, it enables Amazon to have a sales presence without giving a cut to Apple. Windowshop isn't beholden to the 30 percent cut for Apple. It is basically a Amazon website interface: It uses the same customer username/password, offers the same products and gives the same reviews.

In other words, it creates the perfect way for Amazon to keep a foothold in the Apple environment as it launches its Android-based app store in the future.