Amazon reportedly lays off hardware developers at Lab126

Amazon reportedly lays off hardware developers at Lab126

According to this Wall Street Journal article by Greg Bensinger (if the link is behind the paywall for you, requiring you to register to read it, try searching for the title in a search engine):

Amazon Curtails Development of Consumer Devices

Amazon is laying off “Dozens of engineers…”

The thrust of the piece is that, due to the disappointment of the

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

(that is the SmartPhone I use every day, but even I liked my Galaxy better), Amazon is moving away from consumer hardware development, at least in some areas.

Personally, I doubt that means the

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

or, and probably most importantly for readers of this blog, Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers) or Fire tablets.

I think it’s more that they’ll consolidate their existing lines for now, rather than trying new things.

That could be better for us as consumers.

Concentrate on what works:  the EBRs (although they probably don’t need both the Voyage and the Paperwhite, honestly), the tablets, the Echo, the Dash buttons…I’m thinking they may expand into home automation more, tied into the Echo. However, they don’t necessarily need Amazon branded hardware for  that…they can let other people make the hardware, and concentrate on making deals for compatibility.

Other things, like a super stylus, might not make sense. I don’t know that we particularly want Amazon to pioneer hardware lines…making their own  versions of existing lines, especially cheaper ones, is a good way to go. Amazon has not been able to position itself as a premium hardware maker.

Give us things that are less expensive, that tie into the existing Amazon services…that’s a good idea.

I think it’s also important to note that some of the development has moved elsewhere. My understanding is that quite a bit of the Echo “parse-onality” development (the Alexa Voice Service) is happening in the Boston area, for example.

Amazon Phase 2 (which is where I suspect we are now) does want to make a profit. Embarking on wildly speculative ventures is not a way to do that. Consolidating what you have and improving it…that can be.

I don’t want people to lose their jobs, of course…that said, I would be fine with Amazon focusing on improving things like the website itself…searching the forums, for example, is still not very robust. We could use much better content management, in the Cloud, on our devices, and at

It’s going to be very interesting to see where this goes…and I’m champing at the bit for announcements which are likely coming in September!

What do you think? What where would you like Amazon to focus its hardware development? Should they develop new lines? What improvements should they make to the existing lines? Is it important at all that Amazon be seen as a cutting edge hardware developer? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


20 Responses to “Amazon reportedly lays off hardware developers at Lab126”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Reading the wsj article, and some others about Amazon’s plans, one device that was mentioned was a 12″ fire tablet that made use of the dynamic perspective technology — I hope they do that.

    I was hoping that they’d continue with the fire phone (but I had thought way back at the beginning that Amazon shouldn’t try to enter that market). My current plans are still to get 2 phones: one will be the Windows “Citiman” (Lumia 950XL?) coming in October, and a “Surface” phone coming in early 2016 — the latter will use an Intel processor running Windows 10 mobile that will offer some intriguing usage scenarios (your phone as your ONLY PC e.g.)

    The latest Gartner & IDC projections for devices in 2015/16 are down between 5-10% across the board (phones, tablets, Pc’s) with the exception of 2-in-1’s. Everyone is cutting back on H/W development due to the global economic slowdown, and other cyclical factors. With the exception of Apple, I don’t think anyone is making much money on H/W.

    I’m not at all convinced that Amazon has caught the “profit” religion as yet. the negative press on Amazon’s work/life balance issues may make it hard in the future to attract talented engineers — not sure what impact that might have on Amazon’s plans.

    The Wsj article also mentioned that some lab126 functions are being transferred to Seattle. Based on the recent NYT article Amazon has many tens of thousands of sq feet coming online in Seattle in the next year — maybe what we’re seeing is a ramp down of their Silicon Valley presence. Housing prices, and congestion in the whole SF area might make other locales seem like more attractive places to live (although Seattle traffic is not great either :grin).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I would be seriously surprised if the article about the “brutal” workplace condition has any impact at all on Amazon hiring top engineers. They typically think they are the best…and would like an environment which they would perceive as a meritocracy. They probably know that what was described was not atypical…and they are seeing the comments from happy and proud Amazonians.

      We’ll see what happens about Amazon continuing to make a profit. I think that will happen for a while…and they may shift back to more speculative investing. That doesn’t mean they can go from making a profit to not making one without pushback from investors, of course…but they can leverage the profits after they show they can do that reliably and bank a few hundreds of millions.

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        Investors have limited leverage over Amazon — all they can do is make the stock price fall which means Bezos’ net worth falls — I don’t think he cares very much about that :grin.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        I think Amazon cares about stock price…even if Jeff Bezos’ might not personally. That certainly hasn’t been at risk so far, though.

  2. Joan huston Says:

    I love my Voyage much more than the Paperwhite I had before! Two main reasons…1. The buttons for page turns or touch depending on where I’m reading and which grandchild may be on my lap. And 2. It’s smaller and lighter. I really am glad I have it instead of the Paperwhite and couldn’t possibly go back! I would dearly love to have an earphone jack for audible books too. I really miss that from the 3. The perfect Voyage would have sound and the buttons and small and light as possible.

    • D. Knight Says:

      I agree! I loved my Paperwhite, but I love my Voyage more. The main reason for me is that it’s lighter–just a little bit, but it makes a big difference when you’re holding it a long time, especially now that I’m starting to develop arthritis in my hands.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, D.!

        I’m sorry to hear about your arthritis! That’s why I walk with a cane, by the way…osteoarthritis in one hip. The good thing is that I don’t have any chronic pain with it. My doctor recommended glucosamine, which seemed to make the difference, although I’m not giving you medical advice, of course. You might raise the question with your doctor.

      • D. Knight Says:

        Thanks for the suggestion, Bufo! I do take glucosamine, and it helps. At least my hand doesn’t usually hurt when it’s at rest–only when trying to hold a book.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, D.!

        I’m glad that helps!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Joan!

      The Voyage has 4.4 stars out of 5 with 6,665 customer reviews at time of writing.

      The Paperwhite has 4.5 stars with 4,219 reviews.

      So, that’s pretty close. 🙂

      My guess is that if they only kept one, the Paperwhite has better branding. I think people know the Paperwhite name, even if they get it wrong some times. I don’t think the Voyage name resonated very well…so many people think it is the Voyager. 🙂

      I think we would see the page press buttons on the new model, and a lower price. They might even have two flavors of it…but still only one name, plus the entry level Kindle.

  3. Angelo B. Says:

    Hi Bufo. I love Amazon and spend entirely too much time and money at the website, but am glad to see they’ve finally acknowledged the misstep with the Fire Phone. Perhaps if they had started at the $.99 price point instead of $199……..

    Time to put the phone in the rear view mirror and concentrate on what works.

    All the Kindle e-book readers (I own the K3, PW2 and Voyage) are far and away superior to the competition and Amazon’s e-book prices are generally better than others’. The Fire TV (and Stick) are excellent products as well, and the Echo, while of no interest to me, seems to be a hit. As an iPad enthusiast, I find the Fire tablets to be limited but still useful. I use my HD7 for light gaming, as a reader and as a conduit to special offers. I hope Amazon will continue to develop new hardware — I for one would be a willing buyer under the right circumstances.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Angelo!

      I think your reading of the situation is probably pretty good.

      The EBRs (E-book Readers…non-Fires) are probably the strongest line, in terms of customer perspective.

      I think the Kindle Fire HDX I have is a great device! I’m increasingly satisfied with it over time, and that doesn’t always happen. However, I would guess that iPad owners like theirs even more.

      The Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick get daily use in our house. I do find I have to restart them from time to time, but generally, I’m satisfied.

      The Echo has barely begun, but I enjoy it.

      As to the phone…no question, if they had introduced it at under a dollar, it would have been a hit. I would say it is 75% the phone that my Galaxy was…which makes it a pretty good phone, but not a great phone.

    • D. Knight Says:

      Regarding the iPad vs. Fire: my opinion is that the difference is relatively the as in the Voyage vs. the Paperwhite in that the iPad is definitely a superior product, but not necessarily worth the extra cost, parallel to the Voyage is superior to the Paperwhite, but only worth the extra cost if you particularly value the differences.

      I bought my Mom an iPad Mini 2 because she quite frankly needed the absolutely easiest tablet to use. For myself, I got a Fire, among other things, it gives me more justification to upgrade every other year. 🙂 My mom will not want to change until she absolutely has to (she’s 85 this year).

      OTOH, the extra ease of holding the Voyage (this includes the official Amazon cover, which weighs little and makes removing the device easy), and to a lesser degree, the page turn buttons make the Voyage worth the extra cost to me.

      I’m curious as to why you’re not interested in the Echo–if that has an answer; it may be that nothing about it appeals to you. I readily admit that the Echo/Alexa does nothing that some other device you probably already have does, but it’s pretty neat to just speak out and these things just happen. Once I was across the room and asked Alexa to turn off the lights–but I yawned while I was speaking. To my surprise, Alexa still understood me.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, D.!

        Oh, I am intensely interested in the Echo! My family might describe it as obsessed. 😉 I’ve been writing about it quite a bit. What led you to think I wasn’t interested? Oh, one of the commenters said that they weren’t, and I generally agreed with their other assessments…maybe that was it? I am, by th way, looking into writing a skill for the Echo…I haven’t dug into it enough to know what the challenges would be, but I did use to teach some programming…

        I think that Mayday (the onscreen help) makes a big difference for non-techies in terms of tablets, but if she’s happy with the iPad Mini 2, that’s more than fine.

        Alexa is quite

      • D. Knight Says:

        Hi, Bufo. I know you’re interested in the Echo since I’ve read your comments on it before.

        I was actually asking Angelo (my fault, I should have addressed my question with a name). I’m just curious as to why someone who obviously is interested in devices isn’t interested in an Echo, but of course it may be none of my business.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, D.!

        Oh, that makes sense! I should have made that assumption!

        I don’t think everyone can see how they might use the Echo…that will change over time for the majority of people, I believe.

  4. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I received an e-mail from Amazon that they are sunsetting my version of the Kindle for Mac app. as of September 15. Unfortunately, I can’t upgrade until I do a system upgrade, and I’m just not ready to do that right now. I know they can’t keep tweeking versions for older software, but it’s frustrating when they make the older versions unusable. I have several books that I can only read on the Mac app.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Tell me a bit more about that e-mail. Are they telling you that your books will become unable to be read on September 15th, or just that they will stop supporting? You can paste part of the e-mail, if you want…unless they said you can’t.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        It wrote to Amazon for more information about what would happen to the books I’ve already downloaded, but so far, I’ve not received a reply. Here is the main part of the letter:

        “Dear [Lady Galaxy],
        It’s time to update your Kindle for Mac app! We appreciate the time you’ve spent reading with our Kindle for Mac app, but you have registered a version on one of your computers that is out of date and scheduled to be retired by September 15. Our latest update (version 1.11.0 or above) is still free, and includes important bug fixes that are required to continue using the app.”

        The rest of the letter contains links to the download site and to the troubleshooting page, but there is no information on the troubleshooting page about what happens to Kindle for Mac content after the sunset date.

        I use the Mac Kindle App mostly for those books that contain graphics, charts, etc. that aren’t readable on a standard Kindle. For example, in George Takei’s “Oh, Myyy” the screen shots of his tweets aren’t readable on my K3 but are very readable on the Kindle for Mac.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        That’s not good!

        I’ll ask Amazon, see what I can find out

        I do think your situation is unusual, but probably not unique.

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