Regardless of how you feel about Apple, much of their success comes from their very loyal fan base. Not that their fans are the only ones who buy their phones and tablets, but they do represent a vast, unpaid sales force, always eager to bring fresh bodies into the fold. It’s possible that Microsoft may someday be able to duplicate this effort with Surface, but that remains to be seen. Amazon, however, already has a similar fan base, though much of it is uninterested in technology. But what they do love is shopping and Amazon simply provides the best online experience for the shopper. And there are far more people who consider themselves shoppers than Apple fans.
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And online shoppers love Amazon Prime. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from friends and relatives who can barely work the remote on their cable box, tell how they ordered something like a 50” TV from Amazon and had it delivered the next day for $4 at a price that was better than they could find elsewhere. Or the flipside, which is someone who has told me that they ordered a $20 product that they didn’t like and Amazon made the product return experience so easy that they turned a disappointed customer into a big fan.
So what we have is the proper audience for a company to topple Apple’s dominance in the tablet market. And with the new Kindle Fire lineup what Amazon really needs to tip that first domino is just one thing; eTextbooks.
As anyone who has kids in college or has personally bought textbooks knows, the college textbook purchase scheme comes across as a major scam. Hundreds of dollars spent for textbooks that have only minimal changes from edition to edition. Changes made often only to make older (read “used” and inexpensive) version of the text outdated so that students need to buy the newest version. My son, who started college this year, actually had one class where the textbook changed after class started to an updated version that could no longer be rented or found used.
eTextbooks would let the publishers still charge crazy amounts for their books, but would have the opportunity for prices to drop due to the reduced cost of publication. And Amazon can point out to these publishers that DRM would mean that the used book market would pretty much go away, especially if the publisher limited their distribution to the Kindle devices. Interactive links and features that tied into the Kindle device environment would make Amazon hardware the tablet of choice for students.
The new Kindle hardware has the components in place that college students are already using on their smartphones and would use on their tablet; actual stereo speakers, HD quality video, and multiple social connectivity options. Purchasing the device also gets the buyer another 20 GB of free cloud storage added to their Amazon Cloud which doesn’t include the free storage of all content purchased from Amazon. If my children and their friends are good examples, moving their generation’s movie and music purchases to Amazon from iTunes would put Amazon at the top of the pack in media sales.
And since there are Amazon Kindle, Cloud, and Music clients for iOS and Android, everything that the buyer has becomes available on their desktop or notebook computer, smartphone of choice, or even a different tablet.
Now let me circle back to Amazon Prime. Over the last few years Amazon has offered either one year or six months free amazon prime to enrolled students with .edu email addresses. Amazon prime also includes Amazon streaming video access. After a year of free use, the majority of users would simply subscribe, if they like video services, or, as is likely, their buying habits have moved them more to online purchases via Amazon.
All of these things combined give Amazon the opportunity to build a generation of users who expect to be able to find services like these as standard; not as expensive add-ons or workarounds. And with Amazon offering an end-to-end solution that addresses the way users are accessing and consuming information and purchasing physical product they would become not simply the next giant technology to take their place as number 1, but the first that combines technology and actual consumer purchasing for not just technology but everything else in their lives.
Much like the way that catalogs changed the purchasing habits of the average American over a hundred years ago, Amazon can become the ‘wishbook' of a generation of Americans in the 21st Century