Word has been spreading about a possible Amazon smartphone. To which my reaction is, ‘what?’
The Kindle Fire was a pretty obvious move. Amazon has great partnerships and content deals. Content seems to be a driving force in tablet sales, especially in smaller tablets, and they already had built a successful Kindle platform.
Earlier this week in reference to the first iPhone announcement Louie Mantia said:
“A phone, an iPod, an internet communications device.”
We cheered at the first two, but we use our iPhones for the third part most.
With the Fire, Amazon believed they could grab a meaningful chunk of market share by leveraging the content that people want to access on tablets, but that content—the ‘iPod’ part of the iPhone—is a smaller piece of the puzzle on a phone than it is on a tablet. How many books, movies, and tv shows are you consuming on your phone?
The greatest strength behind iOS is the software—the ‘internet communications device’ part of the iPhone. Not only the incredible stuff Apple puts out year after year, but also boatloads of third party apps from developers excitedly working on today’s cutting edge platform. Software gives these new platforms their value, and Apple is way out in the lead.
Amazon has yet to prove it can play this game. By nearly all accounts, the Fire’s software is one of its weakest points. And Amazon hasn’t exactly been trumpeting the success of their own app store. It would be easy for them to release a smartphone to join the throng of Android handsets, but it’s going to go nowhere unless they have positive software differentiation from the other Android phones that are out there. From today’s vantage point, I can’t see that happening.