Amazon, smartphones and the quest for a real No. 3 mobile platform

Amazon, smartphones and the quest for a real No. 3 mobile platform

Summary: Amazon could enter the smartphone market and do well. Buyers are dying for a No. 3 mobile platform and the usual suspects just aren't up to challenging Android and Apple's iOS.

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Amazon is reportedly planning to launch a smartphone to compete with the Android army as well as Apple's iPhone. And why not? There has to be a No. 3 mobile platform and Amazon has the moxie to make it happen.

Bloomberg is reporting Amazon is prepping a smartphone and there are many observers receptive to the idea. The reality of the wireless industry is that there's a duopoly---Android phones and Apple's iOS. Together, those two platforms own the wireless device market. Within that duopoly there are two primary hardware players---Samsung and Apple. The rest of the pack arguably road kill over time. Just look at HTC's dismal results as Samsung surges

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Carriers see this wireless structure developing and say: "We need a No. 3 platform." Verizon, AT&T and others are rooting for Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and Research in Motion to eventually deliver on its BlackBerry 10 promises. Wireless buyers would like a No. 3 choice too, but so far seem perfectly content with Android and iOS.

The upshot of all this is that a No. 3 platform won't emerge merely based on charity. In fact, the No. 3 wireless platform is likely to come from a player not even in the market today.

That new entrant could easily be Amazon. Here's what Amazon brings to the table:

  • A content, music and video ecosystem.
  • A model that could support an e-commerce or ad subsidized device.
  • A penchant for disruption.
  • Distribution.
  • And a boatload of credit card and customer data already on file.

Reports of Amazon building a phone are quite believable. These reports made sense months ago and seem like a lock today. The other obvious mobile platform contender would be Facebook, which has the moving parts to be a wireless player.

Bottom line: The wireless platform race today is going to see the contenders shift. Microsoft and Research in Motion have a short and closing window to cement positions as a No. 3 platform. If these challengers remain mired in single digit market share, Amazon, Facebook or someone else may just step in.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, Smartphones

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70 comments
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  • Two players to look for

    I know we've heard it a million times, but I still believe Windows can be a player in the phone market, and as you've mentioned Amazon can be also. If MSFT ever get the type of clean cross-platform integration that we see out of Apple products, I think there is a ton of potential for growth. This is why I'm not writing them off completely yet, as Wndows 8 has yet to ship and we haven't seen what (if any) cross-platform integration will be implemented. With Metro, we can clearly see how the designs of the phone and desktop OS are starting to merge, which leaves me curious about how they will perform together.

    Amazon, on the other hand, is very good at integrating products. The Kindle Fire is not the most high-powered tablet, but what it does get right is that it makes it easy for the customer to get content to their device (from Amazon of course). The thing that makes me uneasy about the possibility of an Amazon phone is that there are so many things outside the Amazon ecosystem that I don't know if they will support. The Google Play store is the biggest question mark. It's not available on the Fire, and the Amazon app store is just not quite as robust. I don't know if Amazon would go full Android, or if they would design their own UI over the top. I think releasing a limited version (like the Fire has) would be a big mistake.
    dsa791
    • Microsoft doesn't do "clean".

      "If MSFT ever get the type of clean cross-platform integration that we see out of Apple products ..."

      They have never had the vision to do anything "clean" cross-platform. It's always a hodge-podge compromise-ridden pil of bolted on garbage.
      RationalGuy
      • As a media centre user...

        I will, unfortunately, have to agree with you. Have to use 3rd party products far too frequently, which sort of takes away the "clean" or slicknesss of the solution.
        kstap
      • They've also

        Never had the same type of opportunity that they do with Windows 8 though. All platforms will run with a Metro-like UI, which is going to make it much easier to integrate. Recently MSFT has been doing a lot of things that they've never done before, so we'll just have to wait and see how Win8 and WP8 wind up after release
        dsa791
        • Nope.

          "All platforms will run with a Metro-like UI ..."

          All platforms will run with TWO UIs. One of them will be Metro. The other will be traditional Windows desktop. Microsoft can't even keep it clean within Windows 8.
          RationalGuy
          • I didn't say

            SOLELY Metro-like UI. For all we know they could use the Metro part of Windows 8 to integrate with WP8 and WinRT, and let you keep your Desktop exclusive to a PC. We have to wait and see how they handle it. We can't know whether it will be a success or failure until they release WP8 and Win8, but this is most definitely a big opportunity. Whether they capitalize on it or not is something nobody can predict yet.
            dsa791
          • The only thing more convoluted than's MS' strategy ...

            ... is your defense of their strategy. There is nothing "clean" about either.
            RationalGuy
          • Your insane bias is showing

            I haven't defended a thing. I've laid out the huge opportunity that MSFT has, and said we have to wait and see before we call their yet to be released products a failure like you've been trying to do.
            dsa791
          • and there is nothing

            Rational at all about your posts, typical trolling. Probably ITGuy10
            hopp64
      • It's a history of failure

        MS has never been really serious about phones. Every time a new release occurs, the shills come of the woodworks and say; "it'll be different this time!!"

        Yeah, right...

        Let's see

        Windows CE
        Pocket PC 2002
        Windows Mobile 2003
        Windows Mobile 5
        Windows Mobile 6
        Windows Mobile 6.1
        Windows Mobile 6.5
        Windows 7 Phone
        Windows 7.5 Phone

        Yup, all of 'em have been 'rip-roaring successes'.

        lol...
        CaviarBlack
        • Go ask

          HTC if Windows mobile was a failure! Those was the only smartphones they sold. Windows CE? Have you been to walmart, target, Best Buy, Toys r us, sears or any other store with electric price guns or product scanners all use Windows CE.
          stm24
          • Ask who?

            "Go ask HTC if Windows mobile was a failure!"

            And look at HTC going down the crapper in the face of Samsung. Did you really want to use them as an example?

            "Windows CE? Have you been to walmart, target, Best Buy, Toys r us, sears or any other store with electric price guns or product scanners all use Windows CE."

            Well no wonder they got price wrong the other day. They used Windows for keeping inventory!

            lol...
            CaviarBlack
          • And notice all the other examples I listed...

            ...are true!

            Your damage control spin is FUTILE!
            CaviarBlack
        • Cell Decision

          My phone was giving me problems (not Windows) and I went to my provider. We did the fix and I asked about a Nokia with Windows to replace my phone as I have Windows 8 and thought it might be cool to 'complete the set'. He showed me a Samsung SIII. What about The Nokia? Dissed.
          David Nesbitt
    • All valid points, from a technical point of view.

      However, and I say this as a neutral, Windows has a bad image. Even if the hardware and the OS is top notch, people are people and judge things on brands (hence why Nike and Coca-Cola and McDonalds are still popular, and utterly over valued items - basically their product is pants, but their brand carries them). Microsoft simply doesn't have the same "brand" image to win customers over.

      I believe it's most likely to come from a third party, rather than MS or RIM.
      Bozzer
      • WinMobile screwed MS

        WinMo was so bed for so many versions, it's going to take anyone a long time to get over that. Now they come up with an actually good product, the lingering bad taste of WinMo is ruining its chances. I for one considered a WP7 device because it seemed like a new, different, and decent platform. But I just couldn't get past the distrust built up by having watched coworkers struggle with earlier MS devices, even to the point of being unreliable to make an emergency call.
        NotMSUser
        • And I'm sure you saw lots of people trying to make emergency calls

          just saying.
          William Farrel
          • That's a pretty bad point

            Just because you don't use it often doesn't mean it doesn't have to work as well. You may only need to make 1 emergency call ever, but that is also probably the time where it is most vital to have a phone that works.
            dsa791
      • Really?

        in surveys and whatnot, it doesn't come across as having a bad image.

        The problem is is that it's associated with Servers and Desktops. Apple was smart not to call their phone "MacPhone", as people would have viewed it as a computer, not a phone.

        MS needs to differentiate it from computers, even though we all know phones are in essence a mini computer.
        William Farrel
        • associated with...

          William - if the problem is the association to the desktop, then things are going to get worse for Microsoft. Windows Phone 8 will be running a chunk of the same operating system as Windows 8, thus the alignment to the desktop is becoming even greater for the phone.

          The issue as I see it is more about perception and applications. Perception is that Apple and Android devices are better, although I've seen more people complain about those devices relative to those that complain about Microsoft's phone.

          On the application front, there are simple more apps for Apple and Android. That gives them a huge edge. Additionally, it is easier to find these phones. I visited a local Verizon store that didn't even have a Microsoft phone on display. It is hard to sell a phone that isn't stocked.

          This same issue will hinder Amazon, Facebook, and others. The player that takes over the third place spot is the player that gets the carriers to stock the phone in their stores and to help push the phone for them.

          Of course, what would be really cool is for Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and the other "non-top two" players to get together and build their own cellular network and put the carriers out of business by dropping the cost of operating a phone dramatically. That could change the playing field dramatically.
          zyvxn