November 18, 2011

Amazon ups the ante on "infowars"

Forget the quality of the Kindle Fire. (Wired's in-depth review  probably nails it: good for a few things, so-so for a lot, and crappy for a few; that's a sentiment that at least one other reviewer agrees with.)  Let's look at its real purpose. (All while pondering what Amazon will learn from the Fire for a rumored Amazon smartphone, if that doesn't make you crap your pants.)

The Fire is a "delivery device," if you will, for proprietary information being sold by Amazon, with CEO Jeff Bezos wanting to chain buyers to that information thread. And, that's not just me. Bezos calls it a "media service"; the pullout from Wired at left illustrates how Bezos sees this.

It's a big salvo in online information control "infowars," shaping up as being fought between Steve Jobs Jr.'s Amazon, post-Steve Jobs Apple, and the folks at Google, while Facebook remains a lightweight, and will be even more so after the eventual settlement of a privacy rights agreement with the Federal Trade Commission.

Anyway, back to Amazon's shot across the infowars bow. Wired has an in-depth interview with Bezos, focused on that salvo.

Surprisingly, per the Wired interview, Google's Eric Schmidt includes Facebook as a "fourth horseman," and Bezos counts Microsoft as a fifth, but I disagree. Maybe both of them are trying to avoid monopoly or near-monopoly claims and fears.

Bezos is a charming deceiver, but deceiver he is. Here's one example:
For your typical consumer book—I’m not talking about textbooks or anything specialized—$9.99 is really the highest price that’s reasonable for customers to pay.
Really? Then why don't you charge $9.99, instead of $12.99 or whatever? And, why don't you discount "used" e-books to match price drops in used hardcopy?

Also, per the interview, let's not forget the muscle Amazon has from web server hosting, demonstrated by the Wired pullout at right. Certainly, Julian Assange, Wikileaks, and civil liberties supporters won't. The interviewer notes one person called Amazon here " the Coke of the field, and there’s no Pepsi"

Bezos isn't done yet, either. He's got an eye on the social media world, but says he "we haven't found anything that we thing is exciting yet."

And, in terms of sheer commercialism, there's this exchange:
Levy: For years you’ve been touting e-ink as superior to a backlit device for reading. But the Fire is backlit. Why should Kindle users switch?
Bezos: They should buy both. When you’re reading long-form, there’s no comparison. You want the e-ink. But you can’t watch a movie with that. And you can’t play Android games. And so on.

Meanwhile, the Fire is "only" a $3 loss leader, says one analyst, although another claims, in this in-depth story, that the Fire is a definite profit-margin winner. Interesting. That probably says both that it's not that great, as reviews are saying, and that Bezos, aka Steve Jobs Jr., knows exactly what he's doing.

Especially if, as PC Mag reports, sales could hit 4 million by Christmas. And that Bezos' Fire has hooked customer interest as much as the iPad.

The second price-point review story about Fire costs is much more than that, though.
On Thursday, Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney reported that Amazon is working on a Kindle smartphone for release before the holiday shopping season for 2012.
Can you say "holy crap"?

Apple can. It's revised a lawsuit against Amazon, basically hinging on whether or not "Appstore" infringes on "App Store." Frankly, if "app" is short for "application" and not "Apple," you can't trademark non-brandname English, and were I a patent judge, I'd kick Apple in its collective nuts.

UPDATE, Nov. 25: Amazon is also apparently continuing to rip off major publishers. Prime members can read an e-book a month for free from a selection of titles. Major publishers don't participate, but their books were still being included, a policy denounced as illegal by the Authors Guild, per an AP story.

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