What Amazon could revolutionize on Thursday…and it isn’t hardware
Amazon has a major presser (press conference) scheduled for this Thursday, September 6th, at 10:30 AM Pacific time in Santa Monica.
They’ve invited reporters (including bloggers) from all over.
People are used to that happening for hardware, thanks in part to Apple.
After all, you don’t really need to transport those clunky human bodies thousands of miles unless they are going to hold something in their hands (we can’t quite use a 3D printer to “poof” a tablet into everybody’s hands…yet).
Amazon hasn’t even been selling their own brand of hardware for five years yet. For that matter, have they really been the hardware leader? There were more than ten EBRs (E-Book Readers) in the USA market when the Kindle was introduced. Barnes & Noble was first with a “reader’s tablet”, first with a frontlit reflective screen EBR.
Does anybody really think Amazon is going to out engineer Apple? Microsoft? Samsung, Nokia…keep going.
Amazon has stated three basic principles: service; selection; and price.
When the Kindle was introduced in 2007 at nearly $400, it wasn’t about price.
There were EBRs available at much lower prices.
One of the biggest service elements was the ability to get things wirelessly. Before that, you generally plugged your reader into your computer, and transferred book files to it. While the wireless required hardware, it was the ease of use (service) that transformed the e-book market from maybe half a percent of the USA publishing market to more than ten percent.
Amazon’s reputation also really brought major publishers into the game in a big way…adding to selection.
Amazon contained the prices…comparing popular, bestselling e-book prices at $9.99 made them considerably less expensive than their hardback versions. That, of course, put Amazon and the Agency Model publishers on two sides of a battle.
Then there was text-to-speech…Amazon included it on the Kindle 2, and that created another division with publishers.
However, Amazon is still really good at making content deals with rightsholders. They have a huge number of exclusive e-books…not just with independent publishers who use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, but with solid backlist titles.
They announce new deals with video rightsholders all the time.
Video…that’s a place ripe for another revolution.
One simple thing would be embracing UltraViolet.
As Ryan Lawler points out in this
Santa Monica would be a great place to announce that.
What would it mean?
I looked into this for myself earlier this year.
I’d love to take my DVDs to Walmart and have them convert them to digital files I could access from anywhere!
They have a deal like that…and it’s cheap.
I don’t have the same sentimental attachment to the discs themselves that I have to paperbooks…but they don’t have to destroy the disc to convert it.
The studios agree to it.
It would take very little to make Vudu available on a new tablet.
Lawler also suggests that Amazon could make that deal on DVD purchases you’ve made from them…so you wouldn’t even have to take them anywhere.
Would you pay a dollar a disc? I would, for some videos for sure.
The question becomes, will someone who owns a DVD pay full boat again for a digital version? Some will, obviously. Would tons more pay a small amount who otherwise wouldn’t pay anything?
Yes, I think so.
The opportunity for people to convert their physical media to digital, stored with Amazon, is a huge opportunity. It also really locks you into Amazon…even if playing it is hardware independent (meaning you store it with Amazon, but can play it on a non-Amazon device).
Tie this into a deal for Prime members, and that gets people buying those “diapers and windshield wipers” from Amazon.
Amazon is investing immense amounts of money in physical item delivery (buying a robot company, building fulfillment centers), and that’s not about paperbooks.
It may be worth it for Amazon to pay rightsholders to allow the use of digital versions of their content to get consumers absolute loyalty on non-entertainment purchases.
If it is determined that it is legal for consumers to convert their physical media to digital copies across content types, then services that do it simply make sense. People in the forums have generally laughed at the idea that “you bought it once” means that you should be able to get it in another format…but it could be done through agreements with rightsholders and/or Fair Use interpretations that make it so.
It’s more complex with books, where I think it is more common that the publisher from which you bought the paperbook doesn’t have the e-book rights…but I can see interpretations that make it work, as long as you aren’t distributing it.
While a “paperwhite” display on a frontlit Touch would be interesting, I don’t see that as revolutionary.
Amazon could certainly make news with price, especially with at least one ad-supported model (an Amazon innovation).
I think the big news may be them making it easier to get entertainment items you already own into their ecosystem.
Some other non-hardware items that could create a buzz:
- Text-to-speech for a tablet*
- Internationalization of the Fire or its successor
- Device-specific archives (choose which items are allowed on which devices on your account). Generally, the idea that you can have people on your account with different levels of control…what is often referred to as “parental controls”, but could certainly go for “employer controls” and other configurations
- Increased social connectivity
- Cloud, cloud, cloud! Amazon is good at Cloud storage, and moving things there is a strength for them
- Bonuses for Prime members…that’s the path into the golden valley for Amazon
- Voice interactivity
- Display of closed captioning on video
- Could they allow phone calls on their tablet somehow? Sure…and that’s a game changer
- A camera would give them some very interesting opportunities in augmented reality
Yes, hardware is interesting…Bluetooth or another ability to host an external physical keyboard for the tablet would mean I would largely replace a laptop/netbook.
Think the big three (service, selection, price)…what do you think Amazon can do with those on Thursday?
Feel free to let me and my readers know your speculations by commenting on this post.
* I use the Pico text-to-speech on my Fire for typically hours a week, but the announcement of a robust TTS that worked with Kindle store books would get noticed
Update: Amazon announced a deal with EPIX after I published this.
That’s going to bring major movies (like The Hunger Games) to Prime streaming. Roger Knights, one of my regular readers and commenters, tells me that Netflix stock dropped 10%.
They also announced a second deal with NBC Universal for some well-known TV shows for Prime.
They have announced this ahead of Thursday’s presser. I think we may still hear something more innovative in two days and an hour…but who’s counting? ;)
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.