Amazon’s Appstore for Android has long allowed consumers to test apps in the browser before purchase, but a new startup debuting now wants to offer an alternative. AppSurfer, as the company is called, has a bigger vision: it wants to become the “YouTube of Android apps.” Whether or not the company can get there is still an unknown, but there’s something interesting about this idea of making apps browser experiences which can be tried, tested, shared, run and embedded anywhere.
Based in India, the startup has only 50 apps on its platform as it heads into public beta, and the majority are from local publishers. Note also that this release is targeted towards developers, not consumers, so there’s still time to improve its consumer-facing website, which is in need of a little polish before claiming a title like “YouTube of Android apps.” The company says its consumer release will include a standalone Android application for app discovery as well, and it will arrive in about two months – after the app catalog is expanded.
According to co-founder Aniket Awati, who started RainingClouds (which makes AppSurfer) with three friends from his school days, the team’s first idea was to build AppSurfer as a developer tool which could be used for testing and private app demos – sort of like a Pieceable for Android. “Four to five months into development, we realized that it had a better use case in the consumer market with try-before-you-buy,” he says. “Letting consumers use Android apps in a single-click from any platform and any device was going to give us access to a far larger market, so we changed tracks.”
That’s essentially the same value proposition as BlueStacks, which makes downloadable software for Mac and PC to bring Android apps to the desktop. It’s just that, instead of desktop software, AppSurfer is betting on the web.
In terms of the competition from Amazon, Awati points out that the try-before-you-buy functionality Amazon offers is limited to the app store itself, and that store isn’t available worldwide (at least for now). “AppSurfer is an open platform which wants to promote apps everywhere on the web – blogs, product pages, social, etc.,” he says. “As a standard, we send users to Google Play for downloading apps.”
In addition, AppSurfer will offer HTML5 access, allowing it to run in the browser on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Plus, it provides developers with a link to their app they can share and a widget they can embed on websites and blogs. Here’s an example (running in Flash).
The company has been in private beta since March 2012, where it saw clickthrough rates of 15% on average to Google Play. Programr is already using the AppSurfer API in its online lab.
Alok Kejriwal, the founder of Games2Win, and 2win group, is an adviser on AppSurfer’s board, along with investor Vijay Shekhar Sharma founder of One97. That’s the firm which funded Dextera, maker of Iris, a SIRI-like app for Android, and personal assistant app Friday. Incidentally, Sharma invested his $200K in April on a TV show hosted by the Economic Times Now channel called “ETNOW Super Angels,” which sounds like a variation on “Shark Tank.”
Interested publishers can now sign up here to try out AppSurfer’s technology.