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Amazon’s Phone Failure

Ben Thompson wrote an interesting piece on Amazon here explaining the awesomeness of Alexa. I quote:

AMAZON’S PHONE FAILURE

Amazon made the same mistake as Facebook: convinced it needed its own operating system and the direct access to users that entailed, the company made one of the worst phones in history.

There are two issues here:

  1. The post-hoc narrative about how amazing Amazon is to do Alexa but terrible to do the Fire Phone is just post-hoc narrative. In reality both were just experiments, both worth trying.
  2. It wasn’t a failure.

Amazon isn’t driven by the same kinds of narratives of success and failure that other companies generally are. It’s all about experimentation and while the v1 phone lost a boat load of money, they’ll just be back with another one. Amazon right now is selling discounted phones bundled with the amazon ecosystem of apps on them. This is just a very quick and cheap way of testing to see if the market exists.

Amazon already had the operating system for a phone from the Fire tablets. Making a high end phone with experimental features was worth a try.

The only real mistake here is Amazon taking so long to come back with another phone, because there’s a market for it. The time lag is probably from blowing up whatever group(s) made the phone within Amazon and waiting for new ideas to coalesce.

Apple is doing strange and confusing things at the top of the market with their various hardware decisions. Software-wise, iOS continues to get more complicated. The benefit is that if I buy an iOS device then I know it will mostly work.

This security doesn’t exist with Android for Joe Consumer. Without effort, we have no idea what Android device to buy or whether it will work. Who knows which Samsung or Moto device I need and whatever version of Android they’re shipping this week, with what modifications?

Enter Amazon.

If they want, Amazon can ship a cheap, reliable phone with the brand security of Amazon. You’ll know it will work, because it’s Amazon. It’ll just work, like your kindle JustWorks(TM). Amazon can reduce the complexity of the device by using FireOS, because all that work is already done for the tablets.

They can price it at $99 pretty soon due to the various hardware costs dropping and they’d sell millions of them.

The argument against all this would be another Amazon principle – customer obsession. It may make a lot more sense to put resource on new projects where you can define everything (like Alexa) as opposed to making yet another phone where they have no customers today anyway. Reading the tea leaves, this points to those discount Moto devices being a great way to get data to make a decision with fewer nice anecdotes.

For a very similar set of reasons, Microsoft has opportunity at the top of the market to ship what I speculatively call the Office Phone. People have been calling it the Surface Phone but what Enterprise wants to do is basically run Office cheaply. An office/surface phone that runs real windows, probably with the ARM x86 emulation, that connects to a keyboard and display, will allow enterprise to give staff one device instead of 2 or 3 and the security of MS Office.

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