Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Alex R. Bath

GET UPDATES FROM Alex R. Bath
 

Amazon Must Ensure They Don't Lose Their Spark as They Launch the Fire

Posted: 29/09/11 09:29

As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took to the stage in New York one thing very noticeable on social media was the excitement at what was about to happen. Amazon has a buzz about their company that is only mirrored by their rivals in Cupertino, California.

Judging by the presentation in West Manhattan, the lessons from those North Californian rivals Apple run deep at Amazon towers Bezos was only a turtleneck shirt away from a Saturday Night Live-esque parody of Steve Jobs.

It is not only the Apple buzz that Amazon have recreated; the pointed highlighting of the company's success, some charming jibes at rivals and the treating of a new product as the resolution to all the world's problems are all straight from the Jobs playbook.

The Kindle has been the device that has lifted Bezos' Amazon to the next level. The pocket-sized e-reader has allowed the company to build technological skyscrapers on its online retail foundations. Rivals Barnes & Noble's Nook device has stuttered whilst the Kindle has become a commuter essential across the world.

The launch of three new devices is a big step for any company, and is an even bigger one when there has been such a simple formula to the previous success. The new Kindle, the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Fire all built on the current offering, but the question has to be if they need to?

The third generation Kindle has been a roaring success, so why change it?

The Fire is an obvious attempt to challenge the iPad and Galaxy Tab market. It is also an obvious departure from Amazon's bread and butter - books. The iPad is successful because it does everything quite well, and a few things very well, whilst sporting a big Apple logo on the back.

Amazon doesn't yet have that kudos, and it hasn't built a device that does everything its competitors can do. No video calling, a smaller screen, and a muddled app store all show that this is a first go. If you don't mind your tablet missing those three, how do you find having no volume control buttons? Odd basics expose the inexperience behind the Fire.

The danger for Amazon is that the change of focus starts to threaten the tight grip the slate-coloured Kindle currently has on the e-reader market. The Kindle and Kindle Touch both seem like a regression from the popular third generation model. The new model has less space, less battery life and can show less content.

Not the most common features of an updated product.

Amazon's success is built on simplicity. Want to buy a film? It can be on its way to you within moments of logging onto the website. Want to read a book on your shiny new kindle? You can have the latest Ian McEwan within minutes.

Do people want a small handheld tablet device? The Fire is remarkably similar to Blackberry's 'Playbook' tablet. Blackberry's tablet has helped the company's revenue fall 15% from last year.

Amazon was brave to launch the original Kindle. They lead the market and converted consumers.

The danger for the company here is that they are following others. Apple and Samsung have the market in a pretty tight grip.

Jeff Bezos looked the part on stage, product in hand, smiling for the cameras. The important thing for Amazon is that they don't spend so much time trying catch up in a new area that they forget what they were good at in the first place.

 

Follow Alex R. Bath on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BathAlex