Like other observers today, I eagerly await announcement of a new Amazon smartphone. Speculation abounds regarding:
a) the foolishness of Amazon in launching a smartphone into a category chock full of well-established, innovative competitors;
b) the brilliance of doing so because of an unanticipated feature than upends the market.
I’m going with number two. Because Amazon is ceaselessly innovative and flush with confidence born of transformational moves that have earned them dominance in a categories from book selling to online sales of just about anything you want as the de-facto 21st Century Wish Book.
They must have something cool up their sleeve.
My first thought, way out here in speculation land, is that Amazon is about to introduce a soon-to-be-ubiquitous new appliance that is nothing less than a handy tool to help people buy more stuff from them. Either that or they’re launching just a pretty-good phone to get a grip on the market before launching their groundbreaking device. Whether sooner or later, Amazon’s new entry will be a game-changing purchase appliance there’s no name for yet that will glue even more of us to the amazing Amazon money machine.
Part II, below, was written after the Amazon announcement. Did I nail it? Halfway nail it? Or nowhere near nail it – in fact, come up so short that my speculation looks silly and sophomoric? You decide.
It’s called the Fire, and Amazon’s new superphone has folks buzzing – and boosting Amazon’s stock price.
Initial online business comment about the new phone is all over the board but leans toward the mystified, especially in light of the device’s high price and limited distribution. Sure there’s some “expensive groundbreaking technology,” a new 3D imager that allows users to look at objects with a more dynamic perspective and get into games in more immersive ways.
But, to me, the Amazon launch feels more like a market test than a do-or-die bid to outdo Apple and other well-entrenched smartphone brands – an experiment.
Here are some questions I’d want the experiment to answer were I Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Will sales of the new phone be limited to early adopters? Or will Fire’s array of “cool factor” features (including more efficient, more intuitive ways to interact with the device) attract a broader base of consumers to AT&T stores? That's the only places people can buy the Fire, at least as of July 25th.
Will a price in line with the iPhone 5S elevate the new phone’s positioning? Will pricing inhibit or enhance sales? Will the ultimate price for the new Amazon product eventually slide down toward zero as it evolves into that ubiquitous Amazon purchasing appliance I speculated about above?
Most important: will users buy more stuff from Amazon right away, using the new phone’s built-in Firefly app, since its 3D feature now makes it easy for shoppers to identify products they want and order them in seconds simply by holding down the Firefly button. The camera can identify "over 100 million items,” says Bezos, “including songs, movies, TV shows” and apparently some things as challenging to identify as exotic fruit or as simple to discern as a jar of branded peanut butter or magazine cover.
All in all, it’s an intriguing launch by a company that’s unafraid (and wealthy enough) to test its mettle in new markets, even if some previous Amazon market innovations have been less than an overwhelming success (witness Kindle Fire’s miniscule share of the tablet market).
So keep watching. Fresh Amazon surprises no doubt await – even as competitors across all channels seek to create competitive advantage of their own with groundbreaking sales and distribution schemes.
TakeAway: Innovation is fleeting. So protect your innovative product or service by building a wall around it in the consumer’s mind that competitors will find difficult – if not impossible -- to break through.
Content © by Brian E. Faulkner
Tags: Amazon.com, Fire, Fire phone, smartphone, iPhone 5S
about Brian Faulkner:
Brian also is a three-time Emmy award winning Public Television writer and narrator of UNC-TV’s popular Our State magazine series, on the air since 2003. His distinctive voice has been heard on many hundreds of radio spots and client projects since the 1970s. People say he sounds a bit like Charles Kuralt, which Brian considers a welcome but happy illusion.