Amazon Optimizes MP3 Store For iPhone And iPod Touch As It Looks To Chip Away At iTunes Lead

Amazon today announced a new version of its MP3 store, designed to work on iPhone and iPod touch devices from Apple. The HTML5 web app now allows iOS mobile device users to make direct purchases of tracks from Amazon’s 22 million song library via Safari, which will then make it instantly available to Amazon’s Cloud Player app for those devices.

It’s a similar move to what the company has already tried to do with its Kindle store for e-books. Amazon launched an iPad-formatted version of that store last year (also in January, coincidentally), accessible from the web, after Apple changed its App Store rules to prevent third-party software from selling content through their apps without giving Apple a cut. The lack of a direct sales channel in-app for both e-books and music content means that Amazon is at a usability disadvantage compared to Apple’s own media marketplaces, including iTunes and the iBookstore.

With the web-based Kindle Store, and now the new Amazon MP3 Store for iOS devices, Amazon is narrowing the gap between itself and Apple’s own native offerings. Users still have to use their browser to go to to access the new store, rather than being able to buy directly from within Amazon Cloud Player, but they can bookmark the site and save it to their device, and it’s a far easier process than going through the previous version of the MP3 store that wasn’t optimized for Apple’s mobile devices.

Amazon touts its MP3 library at over 22 million songs and over two million albums in the U.S., which is getting closer to the iTunes catalogue size (somewhere around 28 million). Access to those songs for shoppers is now a key battleground, and this could help Amazon considerably in that area, although it is worth noting that we haven’t heard much about how the web-based, iPad-optimized Kindle e-book store has helped conversions for Amazon in that arena.