Why I've got a sync'ing feeling about Amazon's new Kindle Fire
Bezos' tablet is a pocket cash-register you can't escape
Open ... and Shut While Amazon's Jeff Bezos took the stage to show off new Kindle Fire devices, the magic of these devices isn't in hardware or software. The magic is what happens between disparate devices, and it's what continues to make Amazon the most credible competitor to Apple's iPad sync.
Amazon may be a control freak in its end-to-end Amazon Web Services platform play, wanting to developers to run its services for everything from databases to Hadoop, but in its device strategy Amazon is wide open. While Apple wants every consumer to begin and end with its devices, its applications, and its store, Amazon is happy to run others' applications, and to have its applications (with their associated content) run on Kindles, iPhones, iPads, Androids, or other form factors.
Ultimately, Apple is a hardware company and wants to create compelling reasons for consumers to buy more iHardware. Amazon, however, is fundamentally a retailer that simply wants to peddle more goods, be they digital or physical. A pan-device strategy is requisite to achieving this, and that strategy depends upon Whispersync.
Actually, the strategy is slightly more complicated than that. After all, while Amazon is happy to let digital content purchased on Amazon.com follow users across their disparate devices, it's even happier if that content experience starts on an Amazon device.
Does Amazon want to make money by selling Kindle Fires? Sure. These are, after all, the equivalent of "cash registers" for Amazon, as The Register's Caleb Cox highlights. Every Kindle Fire comes deeply integrated into Amazon's retail experience, which is why I wasn't tempted by the release of Google's Nexus 7, which had better hardware specs than my first-generation Kindle Fire.
It didn't have the Amazon experience welded into its DNA.
But it's equally important that Amazon reel in potential new Kindle users by allowing them to start with the hardware of their choice, but become dependent on Amazon for the provision and synchronization of content across devices.
So while we rightly ooh and aah over the Kindle Fire's improved hardware, its impressively low pricing for its hardware and insanely low pricing on its data plan ($50 per year), all of these benefits simply obscure the real game Amazon is playing. It's not selling devices. It's selling the synchronization of content across devices. The more you sync, the more you're likely to buy books, movies, music and more through Amazon.
With the launch of the revamped Kindle Fire, Amazon also announced that its awesome Whispersync technology will power synchronization of game play across devices, not to mention synchronization of audio books with digital books (you listen to the first three and a half chapters of The Graveyard Book and turn to the digital book to finish reading that fourth chapter), as well as Immersion Reading (as you read, your book is narrated to you).
Maybe that means you start the experience on a Kindle Fire because the buying experience is so easy. But it definitely means you're going to keep buying content through Amazon because the consumption experience is so amazingly good, no matter where you begin or end.
As Bezos said in the product launch, the Kindle Fire is a service. Or, rather, I'd argue that it's simply part of a larger service, and that service is Whispersync. ®
Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Nodeable, offering systems management for managing and analysing cloud-based data. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register.