"Stay Tuned" says Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. Stayed tuned for what? A tablet. But before diving into that topic, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. No one in the tech industry is better positioned to take on Apple in the mobile computing space than Amazon – no one.
Amazon will soon be the new gunslinger in town, ready to take Apple 10 paces and let the products fly. This may seem like a stretch to claim Amazons forthcoming power, but Amazon is truly crazy like a fox, and they have built an arsenal of software and hardware capabilities over the past few years which are all aimed at mobile consumer solutions. Kindle was thought to be a nutty solution, and now it's a mainstream name with a block of loyal users. This is only Amazon's beginning.
In the past few years Amazon has acquired a slew of companies brought onboard to strengthen and expand their mobile offerings. Each Amazon acquisition brings Amazon additional powers to take Apple head-on in the mobile/online/cloud market. Here are the companies Amazon has purchased in the past three years:
- 2008: Reflexive Entertainment - Casual video game development company
- 2009: Zappos - Online shoe and apparel company
- 2010: Touchco - Touchscreen technology
- 2010: Woot - Online retailer of a single-deal per day
- 2010: Quidsi - e-commerce retailer with 1-2 day deliveries
- 2010: Amie Street - Online indie music store
- 2011: Lovefilm - UK-based online video and movie Netflix-like service
Some acquisitions are clearly targeted at boosting Amazon's online sales capabilities, while others are pointed towards mobile devices and services. But it's not just the corporate buying spree Amazon has engaged in, it's their lineup of online services that are directly targeting Apple.
- Prime Instant Video (movies and TV shows)
- Online Music Store (Amazon MP3 w/cloud-based digital locker)
- Amazon Cloud Drive (online locker/storage solution)
- Amazon Android Appstore
Netflix, Facebook, Pandora, Hulu, Audible (and dozens of other smaller entities), all have a foot in the online media services business, but it's only a slice. One service provides music, another provides movies, while another provides digital books which leaves them weak and vunerable to larger companies that can bring all the services together under one umbrella. Apple has their hand in every cookie jar, delivering their services through iTunes and iOS devices, Apple's typical and highly successful vertical solution.
Amazon also has their hand in virtually every media format: Music, Movies, eBooks, and now has their own Android Appstore. How much longer will it be until Amazon delivers their own Android-based Kindle tablet? Based on Bezos' comments it won't be much longer... Once their tablet launches, Amazon will be the only other tablet hardware manufacturer able to come close in delivering a vertical media and hardware solutions to take on Apple's offerings:
- Music: iTunes Store = Amazon MP3 w/Digital Locker
- Movies: iTunes Store = Amazon Prime Instant Video
- Digital Books: iBooks = eBooks
- Applications: App Store - Android Appstore
I highly doubt Android will look anything close to the Honeycomb interface that's in the market today. Amazon is likely to have taken their time creating a unique GUI for their device. Amazon's media solutions should also show off their strengths in a way that tell the consumer they have everything iTunes Store through the iOS can offer.
The first impressions of the Amazon tablet Kindle will be critical to it's success, and if the tablet itself is bulky and lacks the polish consumers expect based on the iPad, it may not matter what Amazon delivers in software, as it may quickly fail on lack of hardware precision. But Jeff Bezos has shown himself to be a patient man with vision. Amazon has the media solutions, thus it may very well come down to whether patience and strategy will deliver the type of hardware technology and software interface that will deliver Amazon as winner in the tablet market. Amazon, Apple's biggest threat? Absolutely.
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